All posts by Clifford E. Kirsch, Editor

Eversheds Sutherland With more than 25 years of experience, Cliff regularly counsels clients on the design and distribution of investment products including wrap-fee programs and other advisory products, mutual funds, bank collective investment funds and insurance products. He also focuses on issues related to the design and implementation of compliance programs at financial services firms.

California and New Jersey setting the pace in nationwide race to write the rules for crypto

Last week, California and New Jersey both upped the ante in the nationwide race to write the rules for the crypto industry:

  • The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation published an Invitation for Comments related to issues impacting blockchain and crypto businesses.
  • The New Jersey State Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee approved bills that would require licenses for digital assets businesses and establish a crypto regulatory scheme.
  • Players in the blockchain and digital asset industry should take advantage of opportunities to help shape the evolving regulatory landscape, such as by responding to the Invitation for Comments.

Read more here. 

DOJ brings first-ever NFT “insider trading” case

The US Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the first-of-its kind indictment of an “insider trading” scheme involving non-fungible tokens (or NFTs).

  • A former employee of an online marketplace for NFTs allegedly used confidential business information for personal financial gain.
  • The charged individual used new blockchain technologies to conceal the proceeds of the alleged illicit activity.
  • The DOJ brought charges without characterizing NFTs as securities.

Read more here. 

SEC proposes amendments to expand the reach of the fund “Names Rule,” with a specific focus on ESG

On May 25, 2022, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (the SEC) proposed amendments (the Proposal) to Rule 35d-1 (the Rule) under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the 1940 Act). The Proposal comes over 20 years after the original adoption of the Rule and seeks to greatly expand the scope of the Rule in the name of investor protection and modernization.  The Proposal includes the following primary amendments to the Rule:

  • Expansion of the 80% policy requirement to include funds with names that suggest the fund focuses on investments that have, or whose issuers have, “particular characteristics.”
  • A requirement that any unlisted closed-end funds or BDCs that are required to have an 80% policy under the Rule, adopt such policy as a fundamental policy.
  • Identification of particular circumstances under which a fund may depart from its 80% policy and specific time frames for getting back into compliance.
  • Establishment of the “notional amount” as the appropriate value for a derivative instrument used by a fund when calculating compliance with a fund’s 80% policy.
  • Clarification of what the SEC deems a materially deceptive and misleading use of environmental, social and governance (ESG) terminology.
  • A requirement that any terms used in a fund’s name that suggest an investment focus or a tax-exempt fund, must be consistent with those terms’ plain English meaning or established industry use.
  • Modernization of shareholder notice requirements.
  • Establishment of certain recordkeeping requirements related to a fund’s 80% policy.

Read more here.

A Tale of Two Enforcement Actions Against Compliance Officers: An analysis applying the NSCP Firm and CCO Liability Framework

From Brian Rubin and Amy Albanese in this month’s column for NSCP Currents:

Many compliance officers believe they have targets on their backs. Indeed, according to industry-wide surveys conducted by the National Society of Compliance Professional (NSCP), 72% of compliance professionals are concerned that regulators have expanded the role of compliance officers and the scope of their responsibilities in imposing personal liability and 63% believed that personal liability will be imposed even where compliance did not participate in the violations caused by the company or other executives. Is it any surprise that compliance officers seem to believe that regulators look at them the same way that Mrs. Gamp viewed the living young man:  “He’d make a lovely corpse.”

Read more here.

Analysis of FINRA Disciplinary Actions Shows Huge Surge in Financial Sanctions

By reviewing FINRA’s monthly disciplinary reports, press releases and online database, Eversheds Sutherland (US) Partners Brian L. Rubin and Adam C. Pollet identified the following key takeaways:

  • In 2021, fines and restitution spiked despite a decrease in the number of cases compared with 2020
  • FINRA continues to target specific areas, such as anti-money laundering violations, which for the sixth year in a row resulted in the largest amount of fines.
  • Regulators appear to be gearing up for actions involving RegBI/Form CRS

Read the full study here.