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.
For advisers to utilize electronic delivery for regulatory documents such as disclosures, prospectuses, shareholder reports, and proxy solicitation materials, there are a few requirements that must be met. The SEC’s guidance states that the electronic distribution of regulatory materials must satisfy the following three elements:
- Evidence of Delivery
The Release contains over fifty Q&A examples to illustrate the interplay of these three elements – twenty-two of which relate to mutual funds. See the additional resources file for a copy of the release.
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.
Under rule 17a-14 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and rule 204-5 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, broker-dealers registered under section 15 of the Exchange Act and investment advisers registered under section 203 of the Advisers Act are required to deliver to retail investors a relationship summary, Form ADV Part 3, disclosing certain information about the firm. Read all the General Instructions as well as the particular item requirements before preparing or updating the relationship summary.
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.
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.