Effective May 4, 2021, the SEC’s recently adopted amendment to rule 206(4)-1 of the Advisers Act went into effect. The Advertising Rule, 206(4)-1, which addressed how advisers marketed their services to clients and investors, had not been updated with any substance since it was adopted in 1961. The same is true for the “solicitation rule” adopted in 1979. The new investment adviser marketing rule amends the existing rule 206(4)-1, known as “the advertising rule,” and replaces rule 206(4)-3, the “solicitation rule.” The SEC believed it was appropriate to regulate both the investment adviser advertising and the solicitation activity of an adviser through a single rule: The Marketing Rule.
Previously on our blog we discussed situations where advisers are deemed to have custody, Assessing Custody for Registered Investment Advisers. If your firm has deemed itself to have custody, you need to ensure your firm is compliant with the Custody Rule requirements. If this is the case, consider the following:
One of the most critical rules under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) is the custody rule, which is designed to protect advisory clients from the misuse or misappropriation of their funds and securities. With an adequate custody assessment, your firm should be able to recognize whether it has “custody” as defined under the custody rule and has appropriate controls to comply with the custody requirements. Your firm should also build appropriate controls and procedures to ensure future compliance with the custody rule, as applicable to the firm.
An investment adviser must promptly update its brochure if the information contained in it becomes materially inaccurate. This updated brochure is referred to as an “interim amendment”. Upon updating the brochure to reflect material changes, the investment adviser should begin delivering the interim amendment to its prospective clients before or at the time it advisory contract with such clients. For some material changes, the investment adviser will be further obligated to promptly deliver the interim amendment to its existing clients.
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.
Advisers have a fiduciary obligation to recommend a share class that will provide their clients with the lowest overall expenses, based on anticipated transaction costs and holding periods. Moreover, if the Firm recommends mutual funds that carry 12b-1 fees when lower share class options exist, the Firm must make full and fair disclosure, including conflicts associated with making investment decisions in light of the receipt of 12b-1 fees; and selecting the more expensive 12b-1 fee paying share class when a lower-cost share class is available for the same fund. Share class selection is a regulatory priority. The SEC has indicated that examiners will conduct focused, risk-based examinations to assess whether investment advisers are meeting their obligations to
- Seek best execution;
- Disclose material conflicts of interest; and
- Maintain an effective compliance program.
Investment adviser should determine its approach for meeting these three obligations and train its personnel to comply with any policies, procedures, and guidelines governing share class selection.