With New SEC Unit and Data Mining, Advisers Face Closer Scrutiny in 2012

With a renewed focus on analytics and more readily available data, expect the SEC’s scrutiny of investment advisers, including advisers to mutual funds, hedge funds, and private equity funds, to get  tougher.

In December, in a speech before the Consumer Federation of America’s Financial Services Conference, the SEC’s Director of Enforcement, Robert Khuzami, once again emphasized many of the organizational and structural changes that have already occurred and that will continue to impact the way investment advisers and mutual funds will be watched and regulated going forward.  Moreover, advisers may begin to feel the heat from these changes in a deeper, and for their investment adviser reps, and more personal way.  With changes to its organizational structure, the SEC created the Asset Management Specialized Unit to evaluate data and risk-based analytics.  One of the investigative practices the unit is implementing involves adopting a kind of early-warning framework to detect what Khuzami says is the kind of “retail fraud” that may foreshadow more serious problems within assets management and mutual funds.    

Utilizing a retail approach, what might the SEC’s enforcement division be looking at for potential signs of fraud?  Khuzami gives a few examples.  One involves the SEC scouring an adviser’s Form ADV to determine if they’ve lied about their educational achievements, their business affiliations, and their assets under management.  “For us, it’s advisers who lie about graduating Phi Beta Kappa, conceal their association in a past failed business venture, or inflate their assets under management who might well be the same persons who outright steal your money when the markets turn against them,” says Khuzami.

A second approach, for mutual funds, might involve the SEC reviewing databases in an effort to identify poor performance, when at the same time, the fund has relatively high fee arrangements, for them and their sub-advisers.  This, Khuzami says, may suggest excessive fee arrangements that can eat away at the mutual fund investment returns.  See More……

 

Effective July 21, 2011, Advisers to Hedge Funds and Private Equity Funds Face Registration

Under Title IV of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, effective July 21, 2011, changes to the registration and reporting and recordkeeping requirements of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 require advisers to private funds (hedge funds and private equity funds) to register with the SEC. In the past, many of these advisers relied on the so-called “private adviser” exemption to avoid registration. Under Section 403 of the Dodd-Frank Act, now some of these same advisers that exclusively advise venture capital funds and private fund advisers with less than $150 million in assets under management in the United States, face narrower exemptions for adviser registration. However, foreign private advisers and advisers to licensed small business investment companies are exempted.

Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC will also have the authority to collect data from investment advisers about their private funds for the purposes of the assessment of systemic risk by the Financial Stability Oversight Council. Finally, the Dodd-Frank Act modifies the allocation of regulatory responsibility for mid-sized advisers between state regulators and the SEC. View More…