Articles Tagged with Rule 206

On March 8, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued an Order Instituting Administrative and Cease-and-Desist Proceedings (“Order”) against Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. (“Voya”), an SEC-registered investment adviser.  The Order, to which Voya consented, obligates Voya to pay disgorgement of $2,621,324, prejudgment interest of $174,629.78, and a civil money penalty of $300,000.

The SEC’s Order claims that Voya did not inform its clients that it was receiving compensation from a third-party broker-dealer and that these receipts created a conflict of interest.  Section 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) states that investment advisers are forbidden from participating in “any transaction, practice, or course of business which operates as a fraud or deceit upon any client or prospective client.”  Section 207 provides that investment advisers are not allowed to “make any untrue statement of a material fact in any registration application or report filed with the Commission, or to omit to state in any such application or report any material fact which is required to be stated therein.”  Finally, Rule 206(4)-7 under the Adviser’s Act compels investment advisers to “[a]dopt and implement written policies and procedures, reasonably designed to prevent violation” of the Adviser’s Act and the rules thereunder. Continue reading

On January 17, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued ten Orders Instituting Administrative and Cease-and-Desist Proceedings (“Orders”) against ten investment advisory firms.  In each of its Orders, the SEC alleges that each investment advisory firm gave money to campaigns for politicians who, if elected, would have the power to determine the choice of investment advisers to oversee government assets, and subsequently gave investment advisory services to public pension funds.  According to the SEC, these actions constituted violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”).

Rule 206(4)-5(a)(1), commonly known as the Pay-to-Play Rule, provides that investment advisers who are registered with the SEC, foreign private advisers, and exempt reporting advisers are not permitted to provide “investment advisory services for compensation to a government entity within two years after a contribution to an official of a government entity made by the investment adviser or any covered associate of the investment adviser.”  This rule applies regardless of whether the investment adviser or covered person intended to sway the official.  According to the SEC’s Orders, five of the investment advisory firms were SEC-registered investment advisers, while the remaining five were exempt reporting advisers.  Thus, all ten of the investment advisory firms were subject to the provisions of Rule 206(4)-5(a)(1). Continue reading

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently denied a petition to review an order of the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) imposing sanctions against Raymond J. Lucia and investment adviser Raymond J. Lucia Companies, Inc. (“Lucia Companies”) for violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and the advertising rule thereunder, Rule 206(4)-1. In denying the motion, the DC Circuit affirmed the SEC’s broadened views on the use of back-tested performance in marketing and advertising materials.

As discussed previously, this case involves the improper use by an investment adviser of back-tested performance data in retirement-planning seminars. Raymond J. Lucia, and Lucia Companies allegedly used a hypothetical inflation rate that was lower than actual historical rates to make their performance results more favorable. In addition, the performance data allegedly failed to reflect the deduction of advisory fees and was not calculated in a manner fully consistent with the advertised investment strategy. As a result, the SEC barred Raymond J. Lucia from the securities industry and imposed civil penalties of $300,000.

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The Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) recently settled charges against a New Jersey private fund administrator, Apex Fund Services (“Apex”), for failing to notice or correct what it contended were clear indications of fraud by two of its clients, ClearPath Wealth Management (“ClearPath”) and EquityStar Capital Management (“EquityStar”). The SEC’s Division of Enforcement noted that Apex failed to “live up to its gatekeeper responsibility” and thereby enabled the fraudulent activities of these two investment advisers.

Apex provided accounting and administrative services to various private funds, including several managed by ClearPath and EquityStar. Its duties as fund administrator included keeping records, preparing financial statements, and preparing investor account statements. The SEC charged both ClearPath and EquityStar with securities fraud in enforcement actions, finding that ClearPath had allegedly misappropriated fund assets and used fund assets for unauthorized investments, and that EquityStar had allegedly made materially false and misleading statements to investors and prospective investors of its funds regarding undisclosed withdrawals of fund assets.

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Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) brought and simultaneously settled administrative proceedings against accounting firm Santos, Postal & Co. P.C. (“SPC”) and one of its accountants, finding that SPC and the accountant conducted deficient surprise audits of investment adviser SFX Financial Advisory Management Enterprises (“SFX”).  The surprise examinations were conducted pursuant to the SEC custody rule and are designed to confirm the adviser’s appropriate handling of assets under their custody and to uncover, to the extent possible, fraudulent activity of the advisers.

As background to this enforcement action, under Advisers Act Rule 206(4)-2, investment advisers with custody of client funds or securities must maintain certain controls, commonly known as “safekeeping procedures,” to protect those assets. State-registered advisers must comply with rules that vary from state to state, but the model rule of the North American Securities Administrators Association is substantially similar to the SEC rule.  Since approximately March 2010, the Rule has required advisers that have custody other than because of an ability to deduct client fees to obtain an annual surprise exam by an independent public accountant to verify all client assets. Another basic requirement of the rule applicable to all advisers with custody is having a reasonable basis for believing that a qualified custodian or the adviser sends quarterly account statements to each client for which custody was maintained. Advisers that advise hedge funds or pooled investment vehicles may satisfy the audit requirement and other safekeeping provision by having an audit completed by a PCOAB auditing firm and timely delivering audit results to the fund’s shareholders.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) recently filed its revised pay-to-play rules proposal with the Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”). Investment advisers have been awaiting FINRA’s pay-to-play rules ever since the SEC announced last year that it would not recommend enforcement action against an investment adviser or its associated persons for the payment to a third party for the solicitation of a government entity for investment advisory services until either FINRA or the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“MSRB”) had adopted its own pay-to-pay rules for broker-dealers.

Pay-to-play activities involve the practice of making cash or in kind contributions, or soliciting others to make those contributions, to state or local officials or other government entities as an incentive for the receipt of government contracts. Pursuant to Rule 206(4)-5, investment advisers are prohibited from providing a government entity with investment advisory services for compensation within two years of contributing monetarily to that government entity. In addition, and of particular interest here, under Rule 206(4)-5 investment advisers may not provide payment to any third party to solicit a government entity for investment advisory services on behalf of the investment adviser unless that third party is a registered investment adviser, a registered broker-dealer, or a registered municipal adviser.

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Investment advisers continue to get into regulatory trouble when it comes to failing to disclose conflicts of interest and related party transactions as required by both federal and state investment adviser law. Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) initiated proceedings against Fenway Partners, a New York-based registered investment adviser which served as adviser to three private equity funds. The conflicts arose around two related entities: Fenway Partners Capital Fund III, L.P., an affiliated fund, and Fenway Consulting Partners, an affiliate largely owned by the executives and owners of Fenway Partners.

Fenway Partners and Fenway Consulting Partners were both owned and managed in large part by respondents Peter Lamm, William Smart, Timothy Mayhew, and Walter Wiacek. The fund in question, Fund III, was operated by an Advisory Board consisting of independent limited partner representatives, pursuant to its organizational documents. According to the SEC allegations, the respondents failed to disclose several conflicts of interest and related party transactions to both the Advisory Board of Fund III and their fund investors.
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In August of this year the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) settled an administrative proceeding that related to statements an investment adviser made during the SEC’s on-site examination. The adviser at issue, Parallax Capital Partners, LLC, is a registered investment adviser that focuses primarily on mortgage-backed bonds and other similar fixed income securities. Parallax also advises a private fund in addition to providing advisory services to individuals and other entities. During an examination of Parallax that the SEC conducted in April 2011, the firm’s Chief Compliance Officer represented to the examination staff that he had performed and documented the annual compliance review required by Adviser’s Act Rule 206(4)-7 for the year 2010. The CCO further represented that the review and documentation had been conducted in February 2011, and provided the examination staff with a memorandum purportedly documenting the compliance review for 2010 that stated: “This memo documents that I have performed the review and reported significant compliance events and material compliance matters.”

The SEC examination staff was able to determine, by a review of the metadata attached to the compliance memorandum, that it had not been drafted in February 2011 as the CCO had represented, but instead that it had been created and completed in April 2011, just three days prior to the onsite examination and after Parallax received notice of the impending examination.
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