Articles Tagged with Massachusetts

The Securities and Exchange Commission recently issued an Order Instituting Administrative and Cease-and-Desist Proceedings against Massachusetts Financial Services Company (“MFS”), an SEC-registered investment adviser.  According to the SEC’s Order, MFS advertised hypothetical returns pertaining to its blended research stock ratings without informing clients that a number of the hypothetical portfolios’ superior returns were based on back-tested models.  Without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s Order, MFS submitted an offer of settlement to resolve the matter.

According to the SEC’s Order, MFS has employed a quantitative-based research department since 2000.  In 2000, the department developed what MFS calls “blended research” strategies, which involve “combining fundamental and quantitative ratings to arrive at a blended stock score, and by using a portfolio optimization process that considers the blended scores along with risk and other portfolio constraints.”  As of May of this year, MFS had approximately $21 million in assets under management invested in blended research strategies.

The SEC’s Order alleges that from 2006 through 2015, MFS created research proofs based on the blended research analysis. The data and a bar chart describing the analysis were featured in MFS advertisements.  MFS subsequently used the bar chart in three different kinds of marketing materials: in a standard slide deck from 2006 through 2015, in responses to formal requests from clients starting in 2012, and in a white paper that discussed MFS’s blended research strategies.  These materials were marketed exclusively to institutional clients, prospective institutional clients, financial intermediaries, and investment consultants.

The Massachusetts Securities Division (the “Division”) recently issued regulatory guidance for state investment advisers who use third-party robo-advisers to provide advisory services to clients.  Robo-advisers have enjoyed a significant growth in popularity in the financial services industry based on perceived simplicity, ease of accessibility, and ability to service investment advisory clients who may not have sufficient assets to begin a relationship with a traditional investment adviser.  As discussed previously, the Division issued a policy statement in April 2016 declaring that because automated robo-advisers cannot provide fiduciary duties to clients as traditional human investment advisers can, the Division will evaluate their Massachusetts registration applications on a case-by-case basis.

The new regulatory guidance provides that to the extent a state-registered investment adviser (“state-registered adviser”) uses a third-party robo-adviser’s services to provide asset allocation and trading functions to clients, the state-registered adviser must meet a minimum of six requirements.  These six requirements are as follows: Continue reading

The Massachusetts Securities Division (the “Division”) recently issued a policy statement in which it stated, “It is the position of the Division that fully automated robo-advisers, as currently structured, may be inherently unable to carry out the fiduciary obligations of a state-registered investment adviser.”  According to the Division, robo-advisers are generally incapable of fulfilling their fiduciary obligations, principally because they do not meet with clients, gather sufficient information on which investment advice can be rendered, nor provide highly personalized advice tailored to the information gathered.  Continue reading

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has decided to increase regulation of the private equity industry, which has previously faced less regulatory scrutiny than other industries such as banking and hedge funds. At the end of 2012, the SEC sent several letters to private equity funds as “informal inquiries.” It is unclear which firms actually received the letters. The SEC maintains that its actions are not a result of suspecting any particular wrongdoing by specific firms, and it claims that its goal is to investigate possible violations of securities laws.

In the letter, the SEC requested information from private equity firms in relation to 12 broad areas including:

  • Financial statements;
  • Support for valuations of fund assets;
  • Documents setting forth a value of any assets owned by a fund over the past three years; and
  • Information on agreements between the firms and those that value fund assets.

The SEC is placing greater emphasis on the valuation of private equity firms since the firms are not publically traded and there is no listing price on the stock market. As a result, there is no easily ascertainable price for private companies. This allows for subjective judgments to play a large role in valuation. Private equity managers use varying, complex methodologies to value their holdings, which are often private companies bought using debt.
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The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced earlier this month that it obtained an asset freeze against a Boston-area money manager and his investment advisory firm who allegedly mislead advisers in a quantitative hedge fund and diverted a portion of investor money into his personal bank account.

In its allegations, the SEC claimed that Andrey C. Hicks and Locust Offshore Management, LLC made false representations to “create an aura of legitimacy when selecting individuals to invest in a purported million dollar hedge fund.” Hicks is alleged to have raised $1.7 million from several investors. According to the SEC’s complaint, Hicks misrepresented that he had obtained an undergraduate and graduate degree at Harvard University and that he previously worked for Barclays Capital. He also misrepresented that the hedge fund held more than $1.2 billion in assets, according to the complaint.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sterns of the District Court for Massachusetts issued the restraining order and asset freeze.
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