Articles Tagged with Hedge Funds

In a recent administrative order, the Securities Division (the “Division”) of the South Carolina Office of the Attorney General has adopted a new exemption from investment adviser registration for private fund advisers. This move is significant as, until now, South Carolina was one of fewer than 10 states not providing some form of exemptive relief to private fund advisers. New private fund advisers seeking to set up operations in South Carolina may utilize the new exemption immediately. Additionally, existing private fund advisers currently registered with the Division may invoke the exemption and de-register so long as such advisers are in compliance with the exemption’s provisions and all other applicable law. As the southeastern United States has become an increasingly popular venue for private fund advisers in recent years, South Carolina’s new exemption should be well-received by the private capital industry.

As noted, most states exempt private fund advisers from registration obligations arising under those states’ “Blue Sky” investment advisory laws. Such obligations arise as a result of the fund manager (typically a separate legal entity serving as the fund’s General Partner or Managing Member) exercising control over and managing the fund’s securities portfolio. In other words, because the fund manager has discretionary authority to manage the fund’s investment portfolio, and receives compensation for this service (typically in the form of a management fee and a performance allocation), the fund manager generally satisfies the definition of an “investment adviser” under prevailing law.

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On August 2, 2017, a federal court in Connecticut ordered Steven Hicks (“Hicks”), a hedge fund manager, and his hedge fund advisory firms to pay almost $13 million.  This payment includes disgorgement and a penalty.  In 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint against Hicks and his two hedge fund advisers, Southridge Capital Management LLC (“Southridge Capital”) and Southridge Advisors, LLC (“Southridge Advisors”).  The complaint alleged that Hicks, Southridge Capital, and Southridge Advisors committed fraud by placing investor money in illiquid securities when investors were told that “at least 75% of their money would be invested in unrestricted, free-trading shares.”

According to the SEC’s complaint, starting in 2003, Hicks started soliciting investors.  He told them that 75% of any money they invested in two funds he was starting would be invested in unrestricted, free-trading shares.  Free-trading shares are shares that are eligible to be sold.  Evidence shows that some potential investors were also told that the funds would invest “in short-term transactions that would take only 10 or 15 days, such as equity line of credit (‘ELC’) deals.”  Continue reading ›

On April 17, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Justin D. Meadlin (“Meadlin”), an investment adviser, and Hyaline Capital Management, LLC (“Hyaline”), his advisory firm.  The complaint alleges that Meadlin and Hyaline made fraudulent misrepresentations and omitted material facts in order to “induce clients, and prospective investors… to invest funds with them.”  These actions caused them to be in violation of Sections 206(1), 206(2), and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) and Rule 206(4)-8 under the Advisers Act.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that from September 2012 to April 2013, Meadlin sent emails that exaggerated the amount of Hyaline’s assets under management (“AUM”) to clients and prospective investors.  These emails provided that Hyaline had AUM that ranged from $17.5 million to $25 million.  In reality, however, Hyaline had only $5.5 million in AUM during the relevant time period.  Meadlin also sent emails that contained false statements pertaining to expected AUM. Continue reading ›

On February 2, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut against Sentinel Growth Fund Management, LLC (“Sentinel”), an investment adviser, and its founder, Mark J. Varrachi (“Varrachi”).  The complaint alleges that from about December 2015 to November 2016, Varacchi and Sentinel stole $3.95 million or more from investment advisory clients.  The complaint asks that the District Court impose a permanent injunction against Varacchi and Sentinel, order them to disgorge any ill-gotten gains, and order them to pay civil penalties.

Neither Sentinel nor Varrachi was registered as an investment adviser with the SEC or with any state regulatory authority.  However, the SEC charged both of them with violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”).  The SEC found that Sentinel was “in the business of providing investment advice concerning securities for compensation,” which fits the definition of an investment adviser in Section 202(a)(11) of the Advisers Act.  As for Varrachi, the SEC determined that because he owned and managed Sentinel, he too was an investment adviser.  As a result of meeting the definition of an investment adviser, Sentinel and Varrachi were subject to the Advisers Act’s antifraud provisions. Continue reading ›

Parker MacIntyre welcomes Thomas W. Zagorsky as a guest contributor to the RIA Compliance Blog.  Tom is a long-time friend of, and collaborator with, our firm.  His wealth of legal experience includes serving as Assistant Commissioner of Securities for the State of Georgia from 2013 to 2015 and a practice of law, both with private law firms and investment banking and private funds, for nearly 15 years.  He specializes in hedge fund formation, private securities offerings and other aspects of securities and investment services law.  Tom is well-versed in the rules and regulations relating to investment advisers, including private fund advisers, managers of private equity funds and other pooled investment vehicles.

Tom has kept a keen eye on recent statutory and rule developments impacting issues such as crowdfunding, private placement reform, and other statutory and regulatory innovations relating to corporate finance and capital formation.

Parker MacIntyre provides legal and compliance services to investment advisers, broker-dealers, registered representatives, hedge funds, and issuers of securities, among others. Our regulatory practice group assists financial service providers with complex issues that arise in the course of their business, including compliance with federal and state laws and rules. Please visit our website for more information.

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) brought and simultaneously settled administrative charges against an investment adviser and its owner for misleading clients regarding the historical performance of a private fund managed by the adviser and for making misleading statements regarding the fund’s investment strategy.  Specifically, the SEC announced it had settled an administrative proceeding on January 28, 2016, against QED Benchmark Management LLC and its owner, Peter Kuperman, in which administrative proceeding the SEC alleged that QED and Kuperman represented that they would follow a scientific stock selection strategy.

According to the SEC, QED deviated from that strategy, which deviation resulted in heavy losses to QED’s fund.  After experiencing the losses, according to the SEC allegations, QED and Kuperman provided investors in the fund with information about the fund’s performance and supported that misleading information with statements of returns that included both actual and hypothetical returns, in violation of SEC guidance prohibiting misleading performance advertising. Continue reading ›

A Denver-based alternative fund manager was recently charged by the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) with engaging in fraudulent behavior regarding the handling of its futures fund, The Frontier Fund (“TFF”).  The alternative fund manager, Equinox Fund Management LLC (“Equinox”), allegedly overcharged management fees to its investors and overvalued certain assets.

Equinox is registered as an investment adviser with the SEC and thus owes its investors certain fiduciary duties, one of which is to act in the best interests of its investors by being accurate and complete with its registration statements and SEC filings. Equinox, however, allegedly failed to meet those duties by misrepresenting in their TFF registration statements that management fees were based on the net asset value of the assets, when in reality they were based on the notional trading value of the assets. The notional trading value takes into account both the amount invested and the amount of leverage used in the underlying investments, and is significantly higher than net asset value.

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On January 30, 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission hosted a compliance outreach program for investment companies and investment advisors. The national seminar, which was jointly sponsored by the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations and the Asset Management Unit of the Division of Enforcement, was held at the SEC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The seminar outlined the priorities of SEC Divisions or Programs as well as general regulatory priorities of the SEC in the coming years. These priorities included the Wrap-Fee Programs, General Solicitation under the JOBS Act, Cybersecurity, and IABD Harmonization. One program of note that will be taking on more importance over the next two years is the Examination Initiative. The National Examination Program intends to review a substantial percentage of registrants that have not had an examination in the last three years. These examinations will take the shape of either a Risk Assessment Exam or a Presence Exam.
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Typically, offshore funds are not subject to regulation under the U.S. securities regulations as long as they are not sold to U.S. citizens or residents. Offshore funds were not liable for fraud under §10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act unless they met the standards for the “conduct or effects” test. The test focused on:

  • Whether the wrongful conduct occurred in the United States; and
  • Whether the wrongful conduct had a substantial effect in the United States or upon United States citizens.

The “conduct or effects” test was rejected in Morrison v. Nat’l Austl. Bank Ltd. in 2010. The court established a new transactional test that stated that §10(b) and Rule 10b-5 do not apply extraterritorially, but only apply to “transactions in securities listed on domestic exchanges and domestic transactions in other securities.” The court stated that domestic transactions should focus on the purchase and sale of securities. The case did not specifically define the term “domestic transactions,” however, because the parties to the case were foreign and the dispute occurred outside the United States.
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One of the most significant provisions of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act is its elimination of the general solicitation ban currently contained in Rule 502 for Rule 506 offerings sold only to “accredited investors.” As a result, hedge funds will be able to advertise to investors through the internet, mass mailings, and other media. Previously hedge funds have been banned from soliciting or advertising their private offerings to the general public. This prohibition has created confusion among hedge fund managers because of uncertainty about the meaning of “general solicitation.”

The JOBS Act requires the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to eliminate the ban on general solicitation and advertising as long as all purchasers are either “accredited investors” or “qualified institutional investors.” An “accredited investor” includes an individual whose net worth is at least $1 million, excluding the value of his/her primary residence or who meets certain income criteria. We have previously discussed the definition of “accredited investor” in Financial Advisers Should Note More Restrictive Accredited Investor Definition. A “qualified institutional investor” includes companies that manage a minimum at $100 million in assets. Under the JOBS Act, the SEC must adopt rules to eliminate the ban on advertising for an offering by a private issuer within 90 days.
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