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.

Emoji Enforcement: Surely you can’t be serious

From Brian Rubin in NSCP Currents: 

During this year’s annual FINRA conference, a panel of officials announced that in connection with retaining and supervising electronic messages, firms might have to begin reviewing emojis to determine whether they constitute reportable customer complaints.

FINRA’s proclamation appears to be problematic for firms. First, FINRA didn’t announce whether technology exists to find, let alone, translate emojis.  Second, emojis are constantly being added.  Finally, the meaning of emojis depends on context and the “space-time continuum,” including the generation bracket of the sender and recipient.  For example, the thumbs up emoji 👍used to mean, “good job,” but for Gen Z-ers, it’s more of an insult about something you botched, rather than a positive sign, and sometimes it means, “sure, whatever” in response to something you’ve said.  Without industry consultation about these issues, it’s easy to predict what will happen next: 😡.

Read more here.

Fiduciary Duties and ESG — Is it really Everything, Everywhere All at Once?

SEC 40 Act lawyers and those in the ESG space will want to take note of Commissioner Uyeda’s speech published on Jan 27 (SEC.gov | ESG: Everything Everywhere All at Once) in which he lays out an adviser’s fiduciary duty as a battleground for future discussion about ESG investments.  Uyeda says “… an adviser can only pursue an ESG investment strategy if the client expresses a desire to pursue such a strategy after receiving full and fair disclosure regarding the salient features of the strategy, including the strategy’s risk and return profile.” It will be interesting to see if Chair Gensler looks for an opportunity to respond to Uyeda’s remarks.  Don’t be surprised if we see remarks by Chair Gensler that address an adviser’s duty more generally and not just in connection with established an ESG investment strategy. Maybe something along the lines of yes, an adviser can only pursue an ESG investment strategy where a client expresses such a desire, but as a general matter all advisers should be at least considering ESG factors as they do other important data points when making an investment.  Lots more to come……

SEC’s 2024 Investor Advocate Objectives Report

Section 4(g) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act), 15 U.S.C. § 78d(g), requires the Investor Advocate to file two reports per year with the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives.  A Report on Objectives is due no later than June 30 of each year, and its purpose is to set forth the objectives of the Investor Advocate for the following fiscal year. This report contains a summary of the Investor Advocate’s primary objectives for Fiscal Year 2024, beginning October 1, 2023. A Report on Activities is due no later than December 31 of each year, and it describes the activities of the Investor Advocate during the preceding fiscal year. For Fiscal Year 2023, the activities and accomplishments of the Office will be reported not later than December 31, 2023. Here is a link to the FY24 Report on Objectives

SEC proposes service provider oversight requirements for investment advisers

On October 26, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed new Rule 206(4)-11 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act), which would prohibit SEC-registered investment advisers from outsourcing certain services or functions to service providers without meeting minimum requirements. At the same time, the SEC also proposed certain related amendments to Rule 204-2 under the Advisers Act and Form ADV.

Proposed Rule 206(4)-11 (Proposed Rule) would require investment advisers to conduct due diligence prior to engaging a service provider to perform certain services or functions. It would further require advisers to periodically monitor the performance and reassess the retention of the service provider in accordance with due diligence requirements to reasonably determine that it is appropriate to continue to outsource those services or functions to that service provider.

Read more here.

Recent SEC Settlement Suggests CCOs Have Target on Their Backs

From Brian Rubin and Adam Pollet in Corporate Compliance Insights:

The SEC’s prosecution of chief compliance officers remains a fraught and controversial topic. A recent SEC enforcement settlement with a CCO and a registered investment adviser could raise even more questions about the role of CCOs and what standards the SEC uses in sanctioning them.

Read why here.