Let’s rename this “The Compliance Officer Full Employment Act.” Compli-pros at broker-dealers will have to rework all of their Written Supervisory Procedures, revise client agreements, create disclosures, and eliminate all prohibited conflicts. Compliance offices at investment advisers must address the new Form CRS requirement and implement new client onboarding procedures while figuring out the changes required by the investment adviser fiduciary interpretation. And, we only have 12 months to get this all done.
Fund managers that engage in selling efforts must register as broker-dealers unless they can take advantage of the issuer exemption (Rule 3a4-1), which prohibits the receipt of specific transaction-based compensation.
The only controversy here is whether performance information should need to comply with Rule 482. To keep performance information consistent probably makes life simpler for investors, broker-dealers, and the staff at the SEC and FINRA. Regardless, we still believe that the SEC should take a fresh look at Rule 482 given the proliferation of investment products beyond open end funds investing in publicly-traded securities.
The new disclosure rules will add transparency to how broker-dealers assess and choose alternative trading venues and ensure institutional customers have information about fees, rebates, and payments for order flow.
Firms such as banks and consultants should take notice that the SEC and/or FINRA will take action for failure to preserve required records. Consult your compli-pro to ascertain the records required by Rules 17a-3 and 17a-4.
The CCO should review the compliance manual or WSPs and ensure s/he understands and undertakes all designated responsibilities. If the CCO can’t or won’t follow the procedures, then s/he must revise the procedures to satisfy regulatory requirements while reflecting the firm’s accurate allocation of authority.
Today, we offer our “Friday List,” an occasional feature summarizing a topic significant to investment management professionals interested in regulatory issues. Our Friday Lists are an expanded “Our Take” on a particular subject, offering our unique (and sometimes controversial) perspective on an industry topic.
OUR TAKE: The SEC is leveraging the Bank Secrecy Act, adopted to combat money laundering, to require broker/custodians to police advisers on their platforms for violations of the Advisers Act. It’s a novel legal theory to further the regulator’s enforcement goal of requiring large securities markets participants to serve in a gatekeeping role for the industry.
OUR TAKE: Don’t change anything yet based on this proposal. Expect much debate during the comment period and thereafter, as even one of the SEC Commissioners dissented. Our view is that brokers should be subject to the same fiduciary standard as investment advisers. We don’t understand why the SEC would take this half-measure and enhance the broker standard without making it the same as the adviser standard. This confusion is bad for customers and for brokers.
OUR TAKE: Under-resourcing compliance is a red flag for regulators and often leads to enforcement actions. Firms should spend no less than 5% of revenue on compliance infrastructure and should spend more where their activities involve several complex processes.