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.

SEC approves investment advice standard of conduct rules

Yesterday, in a 3-1 vote, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted a comprehensive package of rulemakings and interpretations governing the standard of conduct applicable to broker-dealers providing retail investment advice and the fiduciary duty applicable to SEC-registered investment advisers. The package includes the following specific components:

  • a new rule establishing a standard of conduct (captioned as “Regulation Best Interest”) for broker-dealers and natural persons who are associated persons of a broker-dealer when making recommendations to retail customers of any securities transaction or investment strategy involving securities or regarding the opening of an account;
  • the Form CRS Relationship Summary, requiring registered broker-dealers and investment advisers to provide a brief relationship summary to retail investors;
  • an interpretation of the fiduciary duty applicable to SEC-registered investment advisers; and
  • an interpretation of the “solely incidental” prong of Section 202(a)(11)(C) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (which provides an exclusion from the definition of investment adviser for broker-dealers who provide investment advice on a solely incidental basis to their brokerage activities and do not receive any special compensation for it).

Commissioners Clayton, Peirce and Roisman voted to adopt the package of rulemakings and interpretations, while Commissioner Jackson did not. The SEC has released the adopted versions of Regulation Best Interest, Form CRS, the Investment Adviser Fiduciary Duty Interpretation, and the Solely Incidental Interpretation. A compliance date of June 30, 2020 is set for Regulation Best Interest and Form CRS. The SEC’s two interpretations under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register

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Preemption of state securities laws

With the recent announcement by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it will hold an open meeting on June 5, 2019, to consider adopting Regulation Best Interest, one of the major issues that the SEC may clarify is its view of whether Regulation Best Interest preempts state securities regulations that impose a fiduciary duty on broker-dealers.

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DC Circuit finds negligent, but not willful fraud for inadequate disclosures

In a much-anticipated decision, on April 30, 2019, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued its decision in Robare, a case that concerned an investment adviser’s (IA) disclosure of conflicts of interest regarding its receipt of payments from a custodian. The court held that the Commission’s findings of “negligent” violations under Section 206(2) were supported, but the Commission’s findings of “willful” violations under Section 207, based on the same negligent conduct, “are erroneous as a matter of law.”

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Understanding fiduciary investment advice regulations

By all accounts, 2019 will see the advancement of a number of fiduciary and best interest investment advice regulations at both the federal and state levels. Firms subject to these regulations will face challenges in dealing with rules that will impose a host of new obligations, and that may overlap and conflict with one another. Eversheds Sutherland has developed a chart that is intended to help firms take stock of the evolving framework and aid firms in putting the pieces together.

Find the chart here