The SEC censured a business development company for overstating its income as a payment of dividends rather than a return of capital and thereby violating several reporting rules. The BDC included all payments received from underlying asset management subsidiaries as dividends even though a significant portion of the distributions should have been deemed returns of capital. According to the SEC, the firm failed to offset taxable and accumulated net operating losses. The SEC asserts that the mischaracterization was material because tax-basis distributable income is a significant metric used by analysts and investors to evaluate BDCs. The BDC restated its financial statements and reported a material weakness in its financial control infrastructure.
The BDC should be thankful it didn’t get fined. Although the SEC alleged facts suggesting that the firm should have known about the mischaracterization, an allegation that the firm intentionally juiced reported returns would have resulted in much more significant penalties.