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A Look Inside the SEC’s Final RIA Guidance and Its Discussion of “Best Interest”

In light of the significance of the final rules and commission interpretations issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 5, 2019, Drinker Biddle & Reath’s Best Interest Compliance Team is publishing a series of articles on the subject. The first article, “The Final Reg BI Package: What to Know and What’s Next,”  described the final package of rules and interpretations. The second article covered “Form CRS .” The third article, summarized here, will provide a more detailed analysis of strategically selected provisions of the RIA Guidance.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Interpretation Regarding Standard of Conduct for Investment Advisers (RIA Guidance) reaffirms, interprets, clarifies, and provides guidance regarding the fiduciary duty an investment adviser owes to its clients under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act) as it has been interpreted by common law and SEC guidance. The RIA Guidance also describes the underlying responsibilities that constitute an investment adviser’s fiduciary duties: the Duty of Care and the Duty of Loyalty.

Continue reading “A Look Inside the SEC’s Final RIA Guidance and Its Discussion of “Best Interest””

Financial Services Industry’s New Regulation Best Interest Standard of Care

On June 5, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the Regulation Best Interest Final Package, the new disclosure requirements that accompany the financial services industry’s new Regulation Best Interest standard of care. In light of the significance of Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) for the financial services industry, Drinker Biddle & Reath’s Best Interest Compliance Team is publishing a series of articles on the SEC’s finalized “Reg BI Package” of rules and guidance.

One of the four parts of that package is Form CRS − a mandate that broker-dealers and investment advisers with retail investors (natural persons, trusts or entities representing natural persons) provide a two-page relationship summary disclosing information about their firm before a new client enters an investment adviser’s agreement or engages the services of a broker-dealer, or in the case of an existing client when there is any material change in the nature and scope of the relationship.

This disclosure must be concise, direct and made in plain language, taking into consideration the level of financial experience of retail investors. The specifics of the disclosures made to the retail investor are prescribed by CRS Form 17-page Instructions, including what must be disclosed − length, order, and even in some circumstances the wording.

It would be impossible to summarize the lengthy requirements here; suffice it to say there are eight items mandated for coverage:

Item 1: Introduction

Item 2: Relationships and Services

Item 3: Standard of Conduct

Item 4: Summary of Fees and Costs

Item 5: Comparisons to be provided by standalone investment advisers and standalone broker-dealers

Item 6: Conflicts of Interest

Item 7: Additional Information

Item 8: Key Questions to Ask

Also, there are 10 questions, “conversation starters” that the SEC requires be placed in a different font to distinguish them from other information. The Instructions direct that the questions that do not apply to a particular firm should not be used and additional questions that are frequently asked of a particular firm may be included, not to exceed 14 questions. If the Form CRS is presented electronically it may include hyperlinks to information described in the firm’s disclosures; therefore, it is actually larger in scope than it first appears.

The content of the disclosures must be filed on Form CRS through IARD by investment advisers and through EDGAR by broker-dealers. Firms also should note that Form CRS’s disclosure requirements are in addition to, not instead of, firms’ disclosure and reporting obligations under federal and state law and self-regulatory organizations’ rules and procedures.

FINRA reminds its Members of their obligation to meet the Form CRS delivery obligations and provides them with SEC Staff names and telephone numbers for assistance.

NOTE For a more complete discussion of the Form CRS guidance, read “Reg BI, Form CRS: The TARDIS of Disclosure Requirements. 

Read a summary of the Final Package in our article “The Final Reg BI Package: What to Know and What’s Next”.

House Looks to Put the Brakes on Reg BI

On the heels of the SEC’s recent approval of the “Reg BI Package,” on June 26, 2019 the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would prevent enforcement of Reg BI.  Specifically, Rep. Maxine Waters included a last minute amendment to an appropriations bill that would prevent any funds from being used to “implement, administer [or] enforce” Reg BI.

While the bill was comfortably passed in the House, its prospects to pass in the Senate seem unlikely.  Senators will have the opportunity to introduce their own version, which will then need to be reconciled with the House’s.  As always, we will continue to closely monitor any developments concerning Reg BI, and will publish any updates.

The Final Reg BI Package: What to Know and What’s Next

To nobody’s great surprise, on June 5, the SEC approved the “Reg BI Package,” which includes a series of new standards governing the fiduciary responsibilities of broker-dealers and investment advisers. The approved items consisted of the Regulation Best Interest – Standard of Conduct for Broker-Dealers; Form CRS Relationship Summary; Standard of Conduct for Investment Advisers; and Interpretation of “Solely Incidental,” all of which seem likely to have considerable impact on the industry going forward.

Drinker Biddle’s Best Interest Compliance Team issued an alert summarizing the June 5th meeting, certain statements made by the commissioners, and examining the potential effects of the new standards.

Read the full client alert.

The Robare Ruling Regarding “May” Disclosures and “Willfulness”

The SEC continues to intensify its focus on investment advisers’ disclosures on Form ADV, including issues such as revenue sharing arrangements. A recent D.C. Court of Appeals decision finding that the use of the word “may” in such a disclosure violated the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 could have significant ramifications for investment advisers and the SEC’s Division of Enforcement going forward.

Read the full blog post.

SEC Issues Risk Alert Regarding Reg S-P, Privacy, Safeguarding, and Registrant Compliance

The SEC’s OCIE recently issued a Risk Alert focusing on compliance issues related to Regulation S-P, the primary SEC rule governing compliance practices for privacy notices and safeguard policies for investment advisers and broker-dealers. The Risk Alert summarizes the OCIE’s findings from two-year’s worth of issues identified in deficiency letters to assist investment advisers and broker-dealers in adopting and implementing effective policies and procedures for safeguarding customer records and information pursuant to Regulation S-P.

In this alert, partner Jim Lundy outlines the Regulation S-P requirements, the OCIE’s Regulation S-P findings and key takeaways for SEC registrants.

The First SEC Share Class Selection Disclosure Settlements: What We Learned & What’s Next?

Jim Lundy and Ben McCulloch authored an article entitled “The First SEC Share Class Selection Disclosure Settlements: What We Learned & What’s Next?” for the Investment Adviser Association’s IAA Newsletter Compliance Corner. In the article, Jim and Ben discuss the first wave of settlements under the SEC’s SCSD Initiative as well as lessons learned. They also explore the agency’s ongoing efforts regarding the remaining participants, consequences for firms who opted not to self-report, and the Division of Enforcement’s continued scrutiny of revenue sharing arrangements, disclosures, and conflicts.

Read the full article.

*Originally published in the IAA Newsletter, April 2019

SEC Releases SCSD Self-Reporting Initiative Settlements

The SEC recently announced its first round of settlements with registered investment advisors (RIAs) who had self-reported pursuant to the agency’s Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative (SCSD Initiative). Additional RIA settlements pursuant to the SCSD Initiative are expected, and RIAs who did not self-report face additional scrutiny from the Division of Enforcement. Industry reaction has involved frustration, but the SEC’s focus on RIA conflicts of interest, disclosures, and more recently revenue sharing is increasing.  Jim Lundy and Mary Hansen discuss these developments in this article, SEC Releases SCSD Self-Reporting Initiative Settlements.