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EB-5 Insights Where Government Policies and Business Realities Converge

GT Investment Regulation Update – April 2013

Posted in EB-5 Investment, EB-5 Program, Immigrant Investor, Securities Law

Prepared by: Arthur Don Steven M. Felsenstein 

The Investment Regulation Update is a periodic publication providing key regulatory and compliance information relevant to broker-dealers, investment advisers, private funds, registered investment companies and their independent boards, commodity trading advisers, commodity pool operators, futures commission merchants, major swap participants, structured product sponsors and financial institutions.

This Update includes the following topics:

  • SEC Adopts Rules to Help Protect Investors from Identity Theft
  • Increased Attention to Broker-Dealer Registration in the Private Fund World
  • SEC Issues Guidance Update on Social Media Filings By Investment Companies
  • AIFMD — Effect on U.S. Fund Managers
  • SEC Announces 2013 Examination Priorities
  • Reminder — Upcoming Form PF Filing Deadline
  • Reminder — Upcoming Dodd-Frank Protocol Adherence Deadline
  • Are you a Lobbyist?
  • Recent Events

SEC Adopts Rules to Help Protect Investors from Identity Theft

On April 10, 2013, SEC Chairman Mary Jo White’s official first day on the job, the SEC, jointly with the CFTC, adopted rules and guidelines requiring broker-dealers, mutual funds, investment advisers and certain other regulated entities that meet the definition of “financial institution” or “creditor” under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to adopt and implement written identity theft prevention programs designed to detect, prevent and mitigate identify theft in connection with certain accounts. Rather than prescribing specific policies and procedures, the rules require entities to determine which red flags are relevant to their business and the covered accounts that they manage to allow the entities to respond and adapt to new forms of identity theft and the attendant risks as they arise. The rules also include guidelines to assist entities subject to the rules in the formulation and maintenance of the required programs, including guidelines on identifying and detecting red flags and methods for administering the program. The rules also establish special requirements for any credit and debit card issuers subject to the SEC or CFTC’s enforcement authority to assess the validity of notifications of changes of address under certain circumstances. Chairman White stated, “These rules are a common-sense response to the growing threat of identity theft to all Americans who invest, save or borrow money.” The final rules will become effective 30 days after date of publication in the Federal Register and the compliance date will be six months thereafter.

Increased Attention to Broker-Dealer Registration in the Private Fund World

The role of unregistered persons in the sale of interests in privately placed investment funds is an area of great interest for the SEC and the subject of recent enforcement actions. On March 8, 2013, the SEC filed and settled charges against a private fund manager, Ranieri Partners, LLC, one of the manager’s senior executives and an external marketing consultant regarding the consultant’s failure to register as a broker-dealer. The Ranieri Partners enforcement actions are especially interesting for two reasons: (i) there were no allegations of fraud and (ii) the private fund manager and former senior executive, in addition to the consultant, were charged.

On April 5, 2013, David Blass, the Chief Counsel to the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets, addressed a subcommittee of the American Bar Association. His remarks have been posted on the SEC website. Mr. Blass referenced a speech by the former Director of the Division of Investment Management, who expressed concern that some participants in the private fund industry may be inappropriately claiming to rely on exemptions or interpretive guidance to avoid broker-dealer registration.

In addition, Mr. Blass noted Securities Exchange Act Rule 3a4-1’s safe harbor for certain associated persons of an issuer generally is not or cannot be used by private fund advisers. He suggested that private fund managers should consider how they raise capital and whether they are soliciting securities transactions, but he did acknowledge that a key factor in determining whether someone must register as a broker-dealer is the presence of transaction-based compensation. The Chief Counsel also raised the question of whether receiving transaction-based fees in connection with the sale of portfolio companies’ required broker-dealer registration. He suggested that private fund managers may receive fees additional to advisory fees that could require broker-dealer registration, e.g., fees for investment banking activity.

On a related note, in two recent “no-action” letters, the SEC has established fairly clear rules regarding how Internet funding network sponsors may operate without being required to register as broker-dealers. On March 26 and 28, 2013, the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets addressed this narrow, fact-specific issue in response to requests from FundersClub Inc. and AngelList LLC seeking assurances that their online investment matchmaking activities would not result in enforcement action by the SEC. The April 10, 2013 GT AlertSEC Clarifies Position on Unregistered Broker-Dealer Sponsors of Internet Funding Networks is availablehere.

SEC Issues Guidance Update on Social Media Filings by Investment Companies

On March 15, 2013, the SEC published guidance from the Division of Investment Management (IM Guidance) to clarify the obligations of mutual funds and other investment companies to seek review of materials posted on their social media sites. This report stems from the SEC’s awareness of many mutual funds and other investment companies unnecessarily including real-time electronic materials posted on their social media sites (interactive content) with their Financial Industry Regulatory Authority filings (FINRA). In determining whether a communication needs to be filed, the content, context, and presentation of the communication and the underlying substantive information transmitted to the social media user and consideration of any other facts and circumstances are all taken into account, such as whether the communication is merely a response to a request or inquiry from the social media user or is forwarding previously-filed content. The IM Guidance offers examples of interactive content that should or should not be filed with FINRA. The IM Guidance is the first in a series of updates to offer the SEC’s views on emerging legal issues and to provide transparency and enhance compliance with federal securities laws and regulations. You may find a link to the SEC Press Release and IM Guidance here.

On a related note, on April 2, 2013, the SEC released a report of an investigation regarding whether the use of social media to disclose nonpublic material information violates Regulation FD. The SEC has indicated that, in light of evolving communication technologies and habits, the use of social media to announce corporate developments may be acceptable; however, public companies must exercise caution and undertake careful preparation if they wish to disseminate information through non-traditional means. The April 5, 2013 GT AlertSocial Media May Satisfy Regulation FD But Not Without Risk and Preparation by Ira Rosner is available here.

AIFMD – Effect on U.S. Fund Managers

New European Union legislation that regulates alternative asset managers who manage or market funds within the EU comes into force on July 22, 2013. The Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFMD) will have a significant impact on U.S. fund managers if they actively fundraise in Europe after July 21, 2013 (or if they manage EU-domiciled fund vehicles). Historically, U.S. private equity firms raising capital in Europe have relied on private placement regimes that essentially allowed marketing to institutions and high net worth investors. Beginning July 22, 2013, U.S. fund managers may continue to rely on private placement regimes in those EU jurisdictions that continue to operate them; however, they will now be under an obligation to meet certain reporting requirements and rules set out in the AIFMD relating to:

  • transparency and disclosure, and
  • rules in relation to the acquisition of EU portfolio companies.

The transparency and disclosure rules require, for the most part, the disclosure of information typically found in a PPM; however, additional items are likely to be required such as the disclosure of preferential terms to particular investors and level of professional indemnity cover. The rules also require reports to be made to the regulator in each jurisdiction in which the fund has been marketed. The reports will need to include audited financials, a description of the fund’s activities, details of remuneration and carried interest paid, and details of changes to material disclosures. Acquisitions of EU portfolio companies also lead to reporting obligations on purchase – an annual report – and a rule against “asset stripping” for 24 months after the acquisition of control. Firms with less than €500 million in assets under management are exempt from the reporting requirements and reverse solicitation is potentially an option, as the directive does not prevent an EU institution from contacting the U.S. fund manager, but in practice it may be difficult to apply systematically.  Fund managers may choose to register in the EU on a voluntary basis from late 2015. This will allow marketing across all EU member states on the basis of a single registration. However, registration will come with a significant compliance burden. If you plan to market in the EU after July 23, 2013, ensure that you review your marketing materials, evaluate your likely reporting obligations and consider how the portfolio company acquisition rules are likely to impact your transactions.

SEC Announces 2013 Examination Priorities

On February 21, 2013 the SEC’s National Examination Program (NEP) published its examination priorities for 2013. The examination priorities address issues market-wide, as well as issues relating to particular business models and organizations. Market-wide priorities include fraud detection and prevention, corporate governance and enterprise risk management, conflicts of interest, and technology controls.  Priorities in specific program areas include: (i) for investment advisers and investment companies, presence exams for newly registered private fund advisers, and payments by advisers and funds to entities that distribute mutual funds; (ii)for broker-dealers, sales practices and fraud, and compliance with the new market access rule; (iii) for market oversight, risk-based examinations of securities exchanges and FINRA, and order-type assessment; and (iv) for clearing and settlement, transfer agent exams, timely turnaround of items and transfers, accurate recordkeeping, and safeguarding of assets, and; (iv) for clearing agencies, designated as systemically important, conduct annual examinations as required by the Dodd-Frank Act. The priority list is not exhaustive. Importantly, priorities may be adjusted throughout the year and the NEP will conduct additional examinations focused on risks, issues, and policy matters that are not addressed by the release.

Reminder—Upcoming Form PF Filing Deadline

SEC registered investment advisers who manage at least $150 million in private fund assets with a December 31st fiscal year end should be well underway in preparing their submissions for the approaching April 30, 2013 deadline. Filings must be made through the Private Fund Reporting Depository (PFRD) filing system managed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). As a reminder, advisers to three types of funds must file on Form PF: hedge funds, liquidity funds and private equity funds. Hedge funds are generally defined as a private fund that has the ability to pay a performance fee to its adviser, borrow in excess of a certain amount or sell assets short. Liquidity funds are defined as a private fund seeking to generate income by investing in short-term securities while maintaining a stable net asset value for investors. Private equity funds are defined in the negative as not a hedge fund, liquidity fund, real estate fund, securitized asset fund or venture capital fund and does not generally provide investors with redemption rights. When classifying its funds, advisers should carefully read the fund’s offering documents and definitions on Form PF and should seek assistance of counsel. Particularly, we have seen the broad definition of hedge fund cause a fund considered a private equity fund by industry-standards to be a hedge fund for purposes of Form PF, thus subjecting the fund to more expansive reporting requirements. As is the case with filing Form ADV through IARD, the $150 Form PF filing fee is paid through the same IARD Daily Account and must be funded in advance of the filing. FINRA recently updated their PFRD System FAQs. The SEC has also posted new Form PF FAQs, which should be referred to for upcoming filings.

Reminder — Upcoming Dodd-Frank Protocol Adherence Deadline

All entities, including private funds, engaged in swap transactions must adhere to the ISDA Dodd-Frank Protocol no later than May 1, 2013 in order to engage in new swap transactions on or after May 1. Adherence to the Dodd-Frank Protocol will result in an entity’s ISDA swap documentation being amended to incorporate the business conduct rules that are applicable to swap dealers under Dodd-Frank.  Adherence to the Protocol involves filling out a questionnaire to ascertain an entity’s status under Dodd-Frank (e.g., pension plan, hedge fund and corporate end-user).  Further information on adherence to the Protocol can be obtained at ISDA’s website by clicking here.

Are you a lobbyist?

Over the last decade, many state and municipal governments have enacted new laws regarding how businesses may interact with government officials. These laws often establish new rules expanding the activities that are deemed to be “lobbying,” who is required to be registered as a lobbyist and what information must be publicly disclosed. Approximately half of the states, and countless municipalities, now define lobbying to include attempts to influence government decisions regarding procurement contracts – including contracts for investment advisors and placement agents – and impose steep penalties for companies that fail to register and disclose their “lobbying” activities and expenditures. Although some lobbying laws include exceptions for communications that occur as part of a competitive bidding process, the rules are inconsistent and not always clear. For example, although New York City’s lobbying law long included procurement lobbying, in 2010 the City’s Corporation Counsel and the City Clerk issued letters warning businesses that “activities by placement agents and other persons who attempt to influence determinations of the boards of trustees by the City’s . . . pension funds” are likely to be considered lobbying activity that requires registration and disclosure. Similarly, California’s lobbying law was expanded in 2011 to expressly include persons acting as “placement agents” in connection with investments made by California retirement systems, or otherwise seek to influence investment by local public retirement plans. Greenberg Traurig’s Investment Regulation Group, in conjunction with our Political Law Compliance team, is available to assist clients with questions regarding how to navigate increasingly complex lobby compliance laws and rules across the country and beyond. GT has a broad range of experience in advising to some of the world’s leading corporations, lobbying firms, public officials and others who seek to navigate lobbying and campaign finance laws.

Recent Events

On April 18, 2013, GT hosted the seminar, “The Far Reaching Impact of FATCA Across Borders and Across Industries” as both a webinar and live program in NY and Miami. The seminar explored the latest FATCA regulations and key intergovernmental agreements as well as their applications to a variety of industries. Click here to view the presentation.

On April 10, 2013, GT sponsored Artisan Business Group’s EB-5 Finance seminar at our NYC office. The program exposed participants to a unique alternative financing opportunity for projects that lend themselves to the EB-5 immigrant investor program and featured several GT speakers, including Genna Garver, Co-Chair of the Investment Regulation Group, who provided a securities law update and considerations in the EB-5 area. Guest speakers included Jeff Carr from EPR, Phil Cohen from the EB-5 Resource Center, and Reid Thomas from NES Financial.

On April 2, 2013, GT co-hosted a Global Compliance seminar with Dun & Bradstreet on Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) issues. The program included an overview of the FCPA, with a specific emphasis on the Department of Justice’s recently released Resource Guide to the FCPAand recent enforcement activities. A link to the Resource Guide can be found here.