On August 23, 2023, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) adopted new rules under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”) that will significantly impact private fund advisers (the “Final Rules”).  Although the Final Rules abandoned most of the headline prohibitions in the SEC’s original proposal (the “Proposed Rules”) from February 10, 2022 (discussed in our Alert Memo here) —  which created shock waves through the industry for its proscriptive requirements and tone — the Final Rules still contain onerous and market practice-changing requirements.  The Final Rules do not prohibit indemnification for negligence or ban the standard practice of accounting for taxes in clawback requirements, as the Proposed Rules threatened. But they do impose substantial new and detailed quarterly reporting requirements, two prohibitions and many new disclosure requirements for side letters and expense allocations, and restrict certain other activities, which the SEC explicitly warned that Exam and Enforcement Staff will be closely reviewing. With a few limited exceptions, all registered advisers (“RIAs”) will have their hands full implementing new and modified reporting, and RIAs, exempt reporting advisers (“ERAs”) and other advisers exempt from registration must develop processes —  and make difficult judgments —  about providing preferential treatment to selected investors and engaging in the targeted activities.

Continue Reading Fund Rules Dampened, Not Defanged: SEC’s final private fund rules drop proposed bans on certain activities, but still have bite.

On July 26, 2023, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC” or “Commission”) adopted rules to enhance and standardize disclosure requirements related to cybersecurity incident reporting and cybersecurity risk management, strategy, and governance.

Continue Reading New SEC Disclosure Rules for Cybersecurity Incidents and Governance and Key Takeaways

On July 26, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control jointly issued a compliance note summarizing voluntary self-disclosure policies applicable to U.S. sanctions, export controls, and other national security laws.

The note underscores the U.S. government’s focus on investigating and prosecuting violations of sanctions and export controls laws. While based largely on existing guidance and authorities, the note highlights the role of private-industry “gatekeepers” in sanctions and export control compliance, and U.S. authorities’ increasing emphasis on disclosures in conjunction with potential enforcement.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

On July 26, 2023, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) proposed new rules targeting the use of predictive data analytics and artificial intelligence (“AI”) by registered investment advisers (“RIAs”) and broker-dealers.[1]  The new proposed rules focus on the potential for conflicts of interest and the possibility that newer, more complex analytics models (including those using AI) might optimize decision making for RIAs and broker-dealers by placing those firms’ interests above the interests of their clients.[2]  The proposed rules would require RIAs and broker-dealers to: (i) evaluate whether their use of technologies “that optimize for, predict, forecast or direct investment-related behaviors or outcomes” create such a conflict of interest, and (ii) either stop using or address the effects of tools that place a firm’s interests before the interests of clients.  RIAs and broker-dealers will also will be required to adopt policies to ensure compliance with the new proposed rules.[3] 

Continue Reading SEC Proposes Rules Limiting the Use of Artificial Intelligence by Registered Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers

Companies face new pressures relating to the potential environmental impact of their products and services. In recent years, ESG has become a focal point about how companies conduct their business and there has been an increase in pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, marketing of environmentally friendly products and reporting on environmental, social and corporate governance/ESG metrics. As with any other statements that companies make, it is important that such statements are substantiated and accurate. More and more authorities and private litigants are targeting alleged greenwashing, which includes misstating the use of environmental considerations, overstating the environmental benefits, and underplaying the environmental risks relating to products. In this alert memo, we outline legal theories that U.S. authorities and private litigants have pursued relating to greenwashing, best practices in making environmental claims, disclosure and climate commitments and potential defenses against allegations of greenwashing.

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

On June 8th, the SEC Division of Examinations (the “Division”) published a risk alert expanding the areas of focus for its ongoing examination sweep of compliance with Rule 206(4)-1 (the “Marketing Rule”) under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”).  The Division announced its initial focus areas in a September 2022 risk alert, covering (1) policies and procedures, (2) substantiation, (3) performance advertising and (4) books and records.  It has not yet released any observations from the sweep, nor has there been guidance on the Marketing Rule’s requirements from the Division of Investment Management.  This risk alert’s addition of the “general prohibitions” to the sweep’s focus areas could signal the staff’s intent to issue deficiencies for violations of the broad and undefined “fair and balanced” and “materially misleading” standards.  The risk alert also adds, as expected, endorsements and testimonials to the areas of focus, which is likely an unwelcome addition for advisers having difficult negotiations with placement agents over those requirements.

Continue Reading SEC Expands the Scope of Its Marketing Rule Examination Sweep – But Still No Guidance

On May 3, 2023, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) adopted amendments to Form PF, the confidential reporting form for certain SEC-registered investment advisers (“RIAs”) to private funds.  The amendments are part of the SEC’s effort to bolster the Financial Stability Oversight Counsel’s (“FSOC’s”) ability to monitor systemic risk, but will also allow the SEC’s Divisions of Examinations and Enforcement to more quickly and specifically identify RIAs and issues for examination and investigation.  Coupled with the SEC’s increasing use of artificial intelligence and other data-mining techniques, the amendments will provide a trove of information in areas of focus for SEC staff.

Continue Reading The First Shoe Drops—SEC Adopts the Initial Amendments to Form PF

On March 14, 2023, the French Anticorruption Agency and the National Financial Prosecutor’s office jointly issued updated guidance about anticorruption internal investigations (Les enquêtes internes anticorruption – Guide pratique, the “Guide”).

This follows the announcement earlier this year of important revisions to the PNF’s corporate enforcement guidelines (Lignes directrices sur la mise en œuvre de la convention judiciaire d’intérêt public, the “Guidelines”).

Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

On March 15, 2023, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued proposed amendments (the “Proposal”) to Regulation S-P, which governs the treatment of nonpublic personal information about consumers by broker-dealers, registered investment advisers, registered investment companies, and transfer agents.  The Proposal would broaden the existing “safeguards” and “disposal” rules under Regulation S-P, and would require the entities to adopt “incident response programs.”

Continue Reading SEC Continues to Shine Light on Cyber and Data Security: Proposes Amendments to Regulation S-P

On March 27th, the SEC Division of Examinations (the “Division”) published a risk alert affirming its long-standing interest in conducting reasonably prompt examinations of newly registered advisers. The risk alert provides an examination ‘how to’ guide for new advisers, describing the materials those advisers should expect to provide to staff in an examination. Advisers should expect exam staff to focus on (i) proper identification and mitigation of conflicts of interest; (2) adequacy of client disclosures; and (3) effectiveness of compliance programs.

Continue Reading SEC Risk Alert Identifies Key Compliance Issues for New (and Not New) Registered Advisers