Investment advisers that have custody of client funds or securities are required to undergo an annual surprise examination by an independent public accountant to verify client funds and securities. Form ADV-E is used as a cover page for a certificate of accounting of securities and funds of which the investment adviser has custody, aka a surprise exam report. Form ADV-E contains both information about the adviser and the surprise exam conducted. The Form ADV-E is filled out by the investment adviser and then submitted along with the surprise examination report or statement by the independent public accountant after a surprise inspection of the adviser.
Investment advisers should review, no less frequently than annually, the adequacy of its written compliance policies and procedures and the effectiveness of their implementation. The states expect annual reviews to take into consideration any compliance matters that arose during the previous year, any changes in the business activities of the adviser or its affiliates, and any changes in the Investment Advisers Act or related rules that may impact the adviser’s policies and procedures. In addition, the state expects that an investment adviser will review its compliance policies and procedures on an interim basis in response to significant compliance issues, changes in business activities, and new regulation. In accordance with state rules, this memorandum summarizes the key components of annual reviews for the adviser.
Outside Business Activities (“OBAs”) of individuals can create potential conflicts of interests with the registered investment advisers that employ them. Advisors are responsible for providing written notice before they act as an employee, independent contractor, sole proprietor, officer, director or partner of another person; or receive compensation or have the expectation of compensation from any other person as a result of any business activity outside the scope of the relationship with their registered investment adviser.
Additionally, this includes situations where compensation is to be paid or if there is a reasonable expectation of compensation as a result of any business activity outside the scope of the relationship with his or her firm. Passive investments are exempted from this requirement. To ensure all individuals are compliant with OBA requirements, make sure your firm reviews the following.
Investment advisers should consider the need to perform a branch office inspection of branch offices pursuant to a branch office inspection schedule. Firms should consider whether a branch audit is warranted using factors such as nature and complexity of the branch’s business, volume of business, complaints, disclosures, number of registered persons, and other relevant factors determined by the firm. Firms are to document the exam schedules for each branch office including a description of the factors used to determine the exam cycle for such locations.
Various states require investment advisers to conduct regular inspections of their branch offices. For example, an investment adviser registered in Georgia is required to inspect each office location at least annually to ensure that its written policies and procedures are enforced. Even when an investment adviser is not explicitly required to conduct branch inspections, it should still implement a branch inspection program as part of its supervisory procedures. Also, investment advisers lacking an adequate branch office inspection program expose themselves to significant liability for failure to supervise in the event misconduct at the branch goes undetected.
You get that call, and your heart drops. You knew that a regulatory exam was on the horizon, but you have put off thinking about it. Now, you are face-to-face with an upcoming FINRA examination, and the panic has set in.
Last month, the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) issued a Risk Alert regarding examinations that will focus on broker-dealers’ compliance with Regulation Best Interest. The SEC wanted to make clear that the Regulation Best Interest compliance date of June 30, 2020 will not be extended. The OCIE will begin examinations with the program and will continue to add this element as part of exams for one year after the implementation date.