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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

IARD Renewal Deadline Quickly Approaching & Information Regarding Annual Amendment

In order for an investment adviser to maintain active state registration or notice filing statuses, as well as active state registration statuses for investment adviser representatives licensed under an investment adviser firm, renewal fees must be paid, in full, by all investment advisers by no later than December 12, 2011. Investment advisers need to be sure to allow sufficient time for submitted funds to be processed and reflected in the renewal account; it is highly encouraged that investment advisers submit their renewal payments electronically by no later than December 8, 2011. If renewal fees are submitted by check via the U.S. postal service, the investment adviser must account for delivery and processing time. It is important to remember that failure to pay renewal fees in full and on time may result in the termination of your investment adviser firm and its investment representative’s active registration statuses. Additionally, many jurisdictions also impose fines against investment advisers that fail to renew properly.

As the renewal process begins to wrap up, most investment advisers should also be preparing for filing the annual Form ADV updating amendment. Investment advisers registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and state registered advisers must file a Form ADV annual amendment within 90 days of the investment adviser’s fiscal year. Between January 1, 2012 and March 30, 2012 all SEC registered investment advisers must file a Form ADV Part 1 amendment (annual amendment or other than annual amendment, as applicable) to confirm the investment advisers qualification to remain SEC registered or to indicate that the investment adviser is no longer eligible for SEC registration.  Investment advisers that are no longer eligible for SEC registration must register with the appropriate state regulator(s) and must file a Form ADV-W to withdraw registration with the SEC by June 28, 2011. Please note, an investment adviser’s failure to update Form ADV is considered an SEC violation or similar state rules violation and may result in the investment advisers registration being revoked.

If your investment adviser firm would like additional information in regards to RIA Compliance Consultants renewal service, annual amendment services, or services to assist with switching from SEC to state registration, please click here to schedule a time to speak to one of our Senior Compliance Consultants regarding our services.  If you are an existing client of RIA Compliance Consultants, you should contact your consultant directly to discuss how your consultant can assist you.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Benefits of Implementing a Compliance Calendar

For many registered investment advisers, the task of determining ongoing compliance requirements can seem overwhelming.  Carrying out an investment adviser’s ongoing compliance duties can be a very manageable process if the investment adviser is aware of its requirements and organizes and assigns responsibilities for the various compliance functions.  A compliance calendar can be a valuable tool to assist investment advisers in carrying out their ongoing compliance duties throughout the year.  Developing a compliance calendar can help strengthen an investment adviser’s compliance program that must be developed to detect, prevent, and correct possible regulatory violations that can occur throughout the year.

As 2011 comes to an end, investment advisers should review their annual compliance calendars to determine if they should be updated or revised due to internal or regulatory changes that have occurred throughout the year. As your investment adviser develops its compliance calendar, it should consider including all items that should be completed on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. Investment advisers should not only think in terms of those items that the regulators have designated as tasks that should be completed each year such as the annual compliance review, annual renewals, or the annual Form ADV update filing but investment advisers should also consider those internal controls and checks that are in place to prevent and detect violations.  The following are a few examples of things investment advisers should consider including on their compliance calendars:

  • Ongoing reviews and monitoring for proper firm registration and investment adviser representative licensing
  • Quarterly fee audits to check that client fees are being billed correctly
  • Ongoing compliance training
  • Due diligence reviews (e.g., solicitors, third party money managers, service providers)

Investment advisers should use their written compliance policies and procedures as their guide to begin developing a customized compliance calendar.  A well written, customized compliance program should lay out the investment adviser’s ongoing compliance requirements and the systems and controls the investment adviser has in place to prevent, detect, and correct compliance violations.  Compliance calendars can help to eliminate uncertainties about your investment adviser firm’s activities and can be a great way to preemptively prepare for the investment adviser’s annual compliance review.

As the year quickly comes to an end, make a resolution to prepare for 2012 by creating and implementing a compliance calendar for your investment adviser. For more information and for tips to assist your investment adviser in preparing its compliance calendar, RIA Compliance Consultants is hosting a webinar “Getting Your Compliance Calendar Ready for 2012,” to be held on December 8, 2011 at 12:00 CST.  The fee for this webinar is $69.95 and it will last approximately one hour. To register, simply click here.

For more information on our services, click here to schedule a time to speak with one of our Senior Compliance Consultants.

Monday, November 21, 2011

STOCK Act Gaining Support in Congress

The STOCK Act, a bill that is designed to restrict the ability of elected officials to make securities trades based on non-public inside information, is gaining support in Congress.

The STOCK Act which stands for “Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge” was originally authored by Rep. Louise Slaughter, a Democrat from New York.  Under Rep. Slaughter’s version of the Stock Act, public officials and their employees would be prohibited from trading based on private information obtained through the legislative process and Members of Congress and their employees would have to report their personal securities transactions on a quarterly basis.

In a letter to Congressman Spencer Bachus, the U.S. House of Representatives Chairman for the Committee of Financial Services, Representative Barney Frank urged the Chairman to act on the legislation.  While Rep. Frank stated that in his view the problem was not widespread he still felt that the bill was important because of “the importance of those whom [they] represent being fully assured that [they] are behaving appropriately.”  After receiving this letter, Chairman Bachus agreed to host a hearing on the issue.  Opponents of the bill say that it is unnecessary because elected officials and their staff are subject to the same insider trading laws as the rest of the population.

Stay tuned to RIA Compliance Consultants for further updates as we will continue to follow this story.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

SEC Enforcement Actions Against Investment Advisors Increased 30% During 2011

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) recently announced that during its previous fiscal year, enforcement actions against registered investment advisers increased thirty percent over the 2010 fiscal year.  During the 2011 fiscal year, which ended in September, the SEC filed a total of 146 enforcement actions against investment advisers and investment companies.  For a point of reference, from 2006-2009 the SEC filed on average 82 enforcement actions against registered investment advisers.

The SEC attributed this increase to a “significant reorganization” to the SEC’s Enforcement Division.  According to the SEC, in the 2009 and 2010 fiscal years, the Enforcement Division “flattened its management structure, revamped the way it handles tips and complaints, facilitated the swift prosecution of wrongdoers through a formal program that encourages cooperation from individuals and companies in the SEC investigations, and created national specialized units in five priority areas involving complex and higher risk areas of potential securities laws violations.”  These changes appear to be effective because the Enforcement Division filed more enforcement actions in 2011 than it ever had before.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Make Sure You Properly Renew Your Investment Adviser Firm and Representative Registrations

Investment adviser firms and investment adviser representatives must maintain active registrations and/or notice filing statuses with applicable jurisdictions/states. Investment advisers should be aware that renewing registrations includes paying all applicable renewal fees by December 12, 2011. Unless properly renewed, all investment adviser firm and representative registrations will expire on December 31st of each calendar year. Failure to maintain active registration or failing to properly renew registration may be detrimental to an investment advisor firm.  Investment adviser firms and investment adviser representative that are not properly renewed may become ineligible to conduct business affected jurisdictions effective January 1, 2012.  Additionally, certain regulators may assess fines against those firms or representatives that fail to properly renew.

Most jurisdictions participate in the IARD Automatic Failure to Renew Program.  If your investment adviser firm or representatives are registered or noticed filed in a jurisdiction that participates in the IARD Automatic Failure to Renew Program, your jurisdiction has authorized FINRA to automatically terminate your investment adviser firm and investment adviser representative registrations on December 31, 2011 if your IARD account was not funded in full by the Renewal Deadline.  As of September 1, 2011, 44 Jurisdictions are participating in the IARD Automatic Failure to Renew Program.

Beginning November 14, 2011, firms may retrieve their Preliminary Renewal Statements using the IARD/Web CRD system. Your investment adviser’s Preliminary Renewal Statement will reflect the full payment your investment adviser firm must provide to FINRA by Monday, December 12, 2011. Investment adviser firms and representatives with an active “Approve” registration status will have a Preliminary Renewal Statement available.

If you would like help filing any necessary forms to your firm’s IARD account or want to discuss how RIA Compliance Consultants can assist you with your IARD renewals, click here to schedule a time to speak to one of our consultants.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Professor Suggests Using External Auditors to Increase Investment Adviser Examinations

Section 914 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) required the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to review the frequency of investment adviser examinations and to consider various ways to increase the frequency of such examinations, such as forming an investment adviser self-regulatory organization (“SRO”).  As a result, Congress has begun to look at different ways to increase the frequency of examinations of investment advisers.  The solutions that have been proposed and are being debated include forming an independent SRO, giving FINRA the authority to serve as the investment adviser SRO, increasing the SEC’s funding, charging investment advisers a user fee, or shifting the regulatory authority to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.  James Angel, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business has proposed another solution.  In his article titled “On the Regulation of Investment Advisory Services:  Where do we go from here?” Angel suggests that the best solution to provide increased regulatory oversight of investment advisers is to require investment advisers to hire external auditors to conduct compliance reviews.  Angel’s research paper was supported by a grant from TD Ameritrade and his research paper indicates that his research included numerous conversations with broker, regulators, advisors, scholars and industry trade groups.

According to Angel, requiring investment advisers to hire external auditors is the best solution for several reasons.  Angel suggests that requiring audits by external auditors would increase the frequency of examinations and would allow the SEC staff to focus more on “for-cause examinations.”  Also, he suggests that allowing investment advisers to choose their auditor would lower the prices for such services and result in better service.  Angel stated that the SEC has already “started down this path by requiring RIA firms that have custody of customer assets to have surprised audits once a year.”

Under Angel’s suggested plan, external compliance reviews would be conducted every five years and compliance audits would be “tailored to the size and risk of the firms.”  These reviews would be conducted by qualified industry professionals who hold certain designations like the CFA or CPA and have experience working as an examiner.

Angel dismissed the use of an SRO for several reasons.  He notes that SROs have “a strong financial incentive to side with the industry against the consumer.”  He references that one of the findings of  the investment adviser oversight study that was required by Section 914 of the Dodd-Frank Act was that the only area where the SEC’s investment adviser oversight is deficient is in examination frequency.  According to this study, the SEC is still meeting expectations for the rulemaking process and is adequately addressing other industry deficiencies.  Based on this, Angel concludes that forming an SRO or allowing FINRA to serve as the SRO for investment advisers is the wrong approach.  According to Angel, “[An] SRO’s industry expertise makes it, in theory a better rule-setter,” but the SEC does not have an issue with serving as a rule-setter.  Therefore, Angel states that “[e]stablishing a new SRO with new rulemaking authority whose rules must be approved (and likely micromanaged) by the SEC merely adds another level of bureaucracy.”

Stayed tuned to RIA Compliance Consultants for further updates as we will continue to follow this story.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Investment Advisor Firms Registered with the SEC Required to Confirm Eligibility with First Quarter ADV Amendment Filing

Earlier this year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) adopted Rule 203A-5 to implement changes to SEC registration criteria, including increasing the assets under management threshold for SEC registration from $25 million to $100 million. In order to convert to the new standards for SEC registration, the SEC is requiring all investment advisor firms registered with the SEC on January 1, 2012, to file a Form ADV Part 1A amendment by no later than March 30, 2012. Each investment advisor firm will be required to report the market value of its assets under management (determined within 90 days of the filing of the amendment) and to specify if the investment advisor firm remains eligible for SEC registration. If it is determined that the investment advisor firm is not eligible to remain registered with the SEC, the investment advisor must withdraw from SEC registration by submitting a Form ADV-W by no later than June 28, 2012.  If the investment advisor firm intends to continue operations, then the investment advisor firm’s registration must be approved by state regulators before the firm withdraws its SEC registration.

For a complete release of the SEC’s final “Rules Implementing Amendments to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940,” click here.

For more information regarding regulatory changes made in 2011, register for our webinar, “2011 Review – Are You Aware of the Changes in 2011 and Is Your Investment Advisor on Track for 2012?,” hosted Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 12:00 Central. The cost for this webinar will be $59.95. To register, please click here.

RIA Compliance Consultants can help you with updating your compliance program to comply with the new regulatory requirements or can assist you with switching from SEC to state registration.  If you are an existing client of RIA Compliance Consultants interested in discussing how we can assist your investment advisor, please contact your consultant. If you are a new client that would like to speak with us regarding the services we can provide, please click here to schedule a time to speak with one of our consultants.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

IARD Renewal Reminder

The 2012 IARD renewal season is quickly approaching and investment advisor firms must plan accordingly.  As of October 24, 2011, investment advisor firms may submit certain post-dated filings. Post-dated Form U5 filings are used 1) to terminate an investment advisor representative from the investment advisor firm and 2) to terminate an investment advisor representative from registration in states where the investment advisor representative no longer needs to license. Post-dated Form BR amendments are used to close or withdraw a registered branch office.  Beginning November 1, 2011, investment advisor firms may submit a post-dated Form ADV-W, which is the filing used to withdraw a firm’s registration in one or more jurisdictions.

All post-dated forms must be dated 12/31/2011 and all forms must be submitted by 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET), December 23, 2011, in order for the firm to avoid paying 2012 registration renewals fees in jurisdictions where the firm or its investment advisor representatives need not renew. By filing a post-dated Form U5, an investment advisor representative can maintain registration(s) through the end of the calendar year. By filing a post-dated Form ADV-W, an investment advisor firm can maintain registration through the end of the calendar year.

Filing post-dated forms by November 11, 2011, will ensure that your investment advisor firm is not charged renewal fees on your firm’s Preliminary Renewal Statement for registrations that will be terminated at year-end. Firms that submit post-dated forms from November 14, 2011, through December 23, 2011, must pay the entire portion due on the Preliminary Renewal Statement, as the Preliminary Renewal Statement is calculated based upon the firm’s information available via IAPD as of November 11, 2011. However, those firms that have made filings between November 14, 2011, and December 23, 2011 to indicate any withdrawals of registration for the firm or its investment advisor representatives will be eligible to receive a refund of the fees paid for registration in jurisdictions which do not need to be renewed. The reconciled amount of renewal fees due will be reflected on the Final Renewal Statement that is available the first week of January 2012.

Please note that Form U5s, Form BR amendments, or Form ADV-W filings are processed by the IARD/Web CRD system upon submission and cannot be withdrawn once submitted.

About Form ADV-W

The Full Withdrawal Form ADV-W is used when an investment advisor firm is withdrawing registration with all regulators and indicates that the investment advisor firm is no longer operating as an investment advisor. State registered firms that must withdraw registration in one or more states, but will continue to operate in at least the firm’s home state, must file a Partial Withdrawal Form ADV-W. When switching from SEC to state registration (or state registration to SEC registration), a Partial Withdrawal Form ADV-W should also be used. After the Form ADV-W is submitted to withdraw SEC registration (including for the purpose of switching to state registration), the investment advisor firm’s notice filing status in any jurisdiction is automatically terminated. The IARD/Web CRD system will notify all applicable states that the investment advisor firm will no longer be making notice filings.

If you would like help filing any necessary forms to your firm’s IARD account or want to discuss how RIA Compliance Consultants can assist you with your IARD renewals, click here to schedule a time to speak to one of our consultants.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2011 Review – Are You Aware of the Regulatory Changes Made in 2011?

For registered investment advisors, 2011 gave way to many changes as various provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”) became effective. Understanding the changes made over this past year may help to confirm that your investment advisor is in compliance with the recent regulatory changes. Below is a brief overview of some of the regulatory changes that occurred during this past year.

The Implementation of the New Form ADV 2:

  • U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) registered investment advisors and most state registered investment advisors were required to prepare and electronically submit the new Form ADV Part 2 Brochure.  An SEC registered investment advisor was required to begin providing the new ADV Part 2A Brochure to all new and perspective clients upon submission of the revised document through the IARD system and was required to deliver a copy of the ADV Part 2A to existing clients within 60 days of filing it through the IARD system.  The SEC issued an extension for some SEC registered investment advisors regarding the delivery of the Form ADV Part 2B supplemental brochures.  An SEC investment advisor that was registered with the SEC as of 12/31/2010 and had a fiscal year end between 12/31/2010 and 4/30/2011 had until 7/31/2011, to prepare and begin delivering the new Brochure Supplements to new and prospective clients.  These SEC registered investment advisors had until 9/30/2011 to deliver the appropriate Brochure Supplements to all existing clients. Additionally, investment advisors that were newly registered with the SEC from 1/1/2011 through 4/30/2011 had until 5/1/2011 to prepare and begin delivering brochure supplements to new and prospective clients and had until July 1, 2011 to deliver the Brochures Supplements to existing clients.  All other investment advisors registered with the SEC were required to meet the delivery requirements specified in the initial adopting release. State registered investment advisors should review the state’s Form ADV delivery requirements to determine if any revisions were made and to ensure that they are complying. Investment Advisors must keep Form ADV Part 2 brochures current by updating them at least annually and promptly when any information in the brochure becomes materially inaccurate.

The “Switch” For Mid-Sized Investment Advisors:

  • On July 21, 2011 the adopted rules and form changes to implement the transition of mid-sized investment advisors (between $25 and $100 million in assets under management) from SEC to State regulation became effective. All investment advisors that are SEC registered as of 12/31/2011 must file a Form ADV Part 1 amendment (regardless of the investment advisor’s fiscal year end) by March 30, 2012 to confirm the investment advisor’s eligibility to remain SEC registered or to begin the transition to state registration.  Amendments will be made to the Form ADV to reflect the regulatory changes related to the transition of regulation for mid-sized investment advisors.  Additional revisions to the Form ADV will also be implemented.

Exemptions for Advisors to Venture Capital Funds, Private Fund Advisors With Less Than $150 Million in Assets Under Management, and Foreign Private Advisors:

  • On July 21, 2011, the SEC adopted rules to implement new exemptions from the investment advisor registration requirements for advisors to certain private funds.  The new rules defined a “venture capital fund,” provide an exemption from registration for advisors with less than $150 million in private fund assets under management in the United States, and clarifies the meaning of certain terms included in a new exemption from registration for “foreign private advisors.”

Whistleblower Provision:

  • A provision under the Dodd-Frank Act gives the SEC the authority to reward whistleblowers and enhances the retaliation penalties and procedures that protect whistleblowers.

Additional, noteworthy changes made include:

  • The dollar amount that must be met before performance fees can be charged by investment advisors was raised to adjust for inflation.
  • Adopted rules defining the term “family office” as it relates to investment advisors and those managing their own family’s financial portfolios.

For more information regarding regulatory changes made in 2011, register for our webinar, “2011 Review – Are You Aware of the Changes in 2011 and Is Your Investment Advisor on Track for 2012?,” hosted Thursday, November 10th at 12:00 Central. The cost for this webinar will be $59.95. To register, please click here.

RIA Compliance Consultants can help you with updating your compliance program to comply with the new regulatory requirements or can assist you with switching from SEC to state registration.  If you are an existing client of RIA Compliance Consultants interested in discussing how we can assist your investment advisor, please contact your consultant. If you are a new client that would like to speak with us regarding the services we can provide, please click here to schedule a time to speak with one of our consultants.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Preparing for IARD Renewals

As 2011 is quickly coming to an end, now is the time for each registered investment advisor to begin preparations for IARD renewals for the investment advisor firm and its investment advisor representatives. Registered investment advisors must make sure that they remain properly registered at all times.  If you are an SEC registered investment advisor, you must make sure that your investment advisor is notice filed in all required states.  If you are a state registered investment advisor, you must make sure your investment advisor is properly registered in all required states.  Generally, registration or notice filing is required at the firm level if an investment advisor has a place of business in the state or if it exceeds the state’s deminimus exemption.  However, investment advisors must review each state’s notice filing or registration requirements prior to conducting business in a particular state.  Investment advisor representative licensing is always handled at the state level.  Investment advisor firms must review and determine that all investment advisor representatives are properly licensed prior to conducting business in a state.

Although proper registration, notice filing, and licensing should be reviewed and monitored on an ongoing basis, during the annual renewal process all investment advisors are highly encouraged to review their existing registration or notice filing status and each investment advisor representative’s licensing status to determine if the investment advisor and its investment advisor representatives are properly registered, notice filed, or licensed (as applicable).  All registered investment advisors should also review the state requirements to see if branch office registration is required and, if it is, investment advisors should confirm that all branch office locations have been properly registered.  As of October 24, 2011, investment advisors may begin to submit Form U5s and Form BR Closing/Withdrawals via the IARD and/or Web CRD.  All post-dated forms must be dated 12/31/2011.

Here is a brief summary of some of the upcoming dates that your investment advisor should be aware of as it begins to prepare for the annual renewal process for your investment advisor firm and your investment advisor representatives:

  • 11/1/2011-Firms may begin to submit post-dated Forms ADV-W. All forms must be post-dated 12/31/2011.
  • 11/4/2011-All Transition Filing functionality for investment advisors is unavailable from 8 p.m. Eastern Time until 01/03/2012.
  • 11/12/2011-IARD and Web CRD are unavailable as Preliminary Renewals Statements are generating.
  • 11/14/2011-Preliminary Renewal Statements and reports are available for viewing and printing.

Click here for the full 2012 IARD Renewal Program Calendar.

Making necessary and early preparations for the annual renewal process can help streamline the event. Preliminary Renewal Statements must be paid, in full, by Monday, December 12, 2011. Because it takes approximately two days for payment to post to the IARD account, the funds should arrive no later than Thursday, December 08, 2011, to ensure the money is posted to your IARD account by December 12. If your investment advisor firm fails to pay its renewal fees in full, your investment advisor firm’s registration or notice filing status and investment advisor representatives’ licenses may be terminated effective December 31, 2011. An investment advisor that fails to properly renew its registration may face fines or further disciplinary actions for not being properly registered.

If your investment advisor needs assistance with the renewal process or determining if it is properly registered, RIA Compliance Consultants can assist you. Depending on your needs, RIA Compliance Consultants offers a variety of services to assist with the annual renewal process, preparing and filing the Form ADV Part 1 annual amendment, and switching from SEC to state registration (if applicable).  If you are an existing client of RIA Compliance Consultants interested in engaging us for assistance with these services, please contact your consultant to discuss the package options available. If you are a new client interested in these services, please click here to schedule a time to speak with one of our consultants.

 

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* RIA Compliance Consultants, Inc. ("RCC") is not a law firm and does not provide legal services. A compliance consulting relationship with RCC is not provided those legal and professional protections that normally exist under an attorney-client relationship. For more information, please visit our Disclosures webpage.

The determination to use a third-party compliance services provider is an important decision and should not be based solely upon advertisements or self-proclaimed expertise. A description or indication of limitation of our compliance services does not mean that an agency or board has certified RCC as a specialist or expert in investment advisor compliance. All potential clients are urged to make their own independent investigation and evaluation of RCC.

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