SEC Proposes To Expand the Definition of an Accredited Investor

In an era where, according to the Wall Street Journal, an estimated $3.4 trillion dollars is sitting on the “sidelines”, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) is proposing to expand the number of individuals that can invest in non-public securities and other restricted investment vehicles. To do this, the SEC has proposed to expand the definition of an “accredited investor,” opening the door for more money to funnel into these restricted offerings by expanding the number of individuals qualified to make such an investment.

Generally, the limits were implemented to protect those individuals not knowledgeable enough to invest in securities that are not subject to the disclosure rules of a public security. However, the definition of an accredited investor qualified to make such an investment hasn’t been updated in a number of years, leaving it outdated. The proposed expansion of the definition will incorporate new categories of “natural persons” and “entities,” as well as other investment related organizations. New categories of natural persons include professionals with certain designations, such as those licensed with their Series 7, 65, or 82. Similarly, those knowledgeable employees of private funds would qualify as an accredited investor. Other proposed new categories include certain limited liability companies, investment advisers, investment companies, and family offices.

The SEC proposed expanding of the definition of an accredited investor on December 18, 2019, and the proposal will be open for a 60 day comment period. The SEC is actively soliciting comments regarding every aspect of this rule change, including its overall economic impact. For many, this is a long awaited and desired change to the definition of accredited investor that could result in more capital moving off the “sidelines.”

VW Contributor: Alex Rainville
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SEC Amends Form 10-K to Make Annual Reports User Friendly

The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) recently issued an interim rule that amends the Form 10-K; a form certain publicly traded companies annually file to give a complete review of the company’s business and its overall financial condition. The rule allows the registrant to include an optional summary page of the information that the form requires. Each item in the summary must include a hyperlink to a more detailed explanation in the filing.

The amendment is pursuant to the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”), which was signed into law in December 2015. The FAST Act requires the SEC to take various steps to simplify and modernize certain disclosure requirements. The amendment is effective as of June 1, 2016.

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SEC Announces Priorities for 2016; Protecting the Retail Investor From Retirement Advisors

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced their priorities for 2016 and examining retirement plan advisors remains a focal point. In June of 2015, the SEC, through their Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE), launched the Retirement-Targeted Industry Reviews and Examinations initiative (ReTIRE). Since that time, OCIE has conducted over 160 examinations of retirement advisors and brokers, with over 115 on the advisors. The purpose, generally, is to protect retail investors and their retirement accounts.

With a priority on protecting retail investors, OCIE is examining SEC registered advisors to ensure they are taking adequate steps to follow their fiduciary obligation towards their client’s best interests. This often means the advisor’s fee is scrutinized, with practices such as reverse churning being the target. Reverse churning, in sum, is a practice of advisors putting investors into accounts that pay a fixed fee to the advisor, but usually fail to perform in a manner to justify that fee. For 2016, the review is expanding and will now include the practice, disclosures, and sales strategies for exchange traded funds (ETF). Two other new priorities include examining the sale of variable annuities and undisclosed public pension advisor gifts and entertainment.

The effort by OCIE is not to be confused with the Department of Labor (DOL) examination on retirement advisors, which is running concurrently. The DOL examinations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, however, is similarly focused on protecting the retail investor. Comments by those at the SEC and DOL suggest that the focus on protecting the retail investor through these investigations are likely to continue for some time.

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