COVID-19 has bought a “new normal”. From stay-at-home orders and teleworking requirements to market volatility, consumer worry, and delayed public disclosure, the face of the industry will be forever changed. In light of this, Registered Investment Advisor compliance departments should consider reviewing the landscape of the Code of Ethics requirements.
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.
The June 30th compliance deadline for Regulation Best Interest and Form CRS is quickly approaching. It presents new compliance requirements for broker-dealers and investment advisers engaging in a retail business.
Your firm is beginning to get in the groove since the shelter-in-place orders have been implemented. In the past, you have worked from home on certain days, but the transition to full-time teleworking, homeschooling, and pet sitting has been a challenging reality. Then surprise! You get a call from your regulatory coordinator that FINRA or the SEC has decided to conduct a regulatory exam of your firm starting now.
The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges for many financial service firms. Compliance programs are no exception. Firms are generally responsible for building, testing, and enforcing their compliance programs.
Many financial service firms have written supervisory procedures in place for business continuity planning (BCP). Tucked somewhere on a server or in a binder, many plans have been collecting dust. More than likely, these plans are only taken out during regulatory exams, branch audits, or internal testing.
Enforcement actions can be scary, especially if you or your Firm are named in the enforcement. For the rest of us, enforcement actions provide valuable information on patterns of misconduct, rule violations, and overall cautionary tales.
At the end of each calendar year, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) staff of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) publish a list of topics for the next year’s examination priorities. Not so surprisingly, the first item for the 2019 exam priorities listed is “fees and expenses”. This topic was also the highlight of an OCIE Risk Alert in April 2018 as one of the most frequent compliance issues identified in Examinations of Investment Advisers.
Under the Investment Advisors Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”), Investment Advisers assume a fiduciary responsibility requiring them to seek and obtain the “best execution” for client transactions when trading in client accounts. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has outlined this responsibility as “an adviser must execute securities transactions for clients in such a manner that the client’s total costs or proceeds in each transaction are the most favorable under the circumstances.” Also, the SEC has indicated Investment Advisers need to periodically “evaluate the execution quality of the broker-dealer executing their clients’ transactions.”
With the transition into the electronic storage of client data, Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers are faced with more complex compliance issues regarding safeguarding client information and records. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) OCIE Risk Alert from May 2019 addresses some of the issues and concerns identified with cloud-based storage and possible issues to consider regarding the protection of electronic client and business data.