Private Investment Funds

On January 12, 2017, the staff of the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released its annual announcement on examination priorities in the coming calendar year. The 2017 examination priorities are organized around three thematic areas: (i) examining matters of importance to

Private investment funds are likely to face increased regulatory scrutiny and litigation risk in 2016, not only based on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s focus on the industry but also due to transparency and compliance initiatives of limited partners and other market developments. We have highlighted several areas that should be on the top of every private fund sponsor’s list – and how to assess and manage the associated risks.

Private equity fund sponsors are facing increased litigation risk from regulators and private parties, including limited partners and stakeholders in portfolio companies.  As a result, private equity firms should re-examine their professional liability insurance policies to ensure that their coverage is properly aligned with this increasing risk. 

On August 25, 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released proposed rules that would require investment advisers that are registered or required to be registered (RIAs) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to establish anti-money laundering (AML) programs and report suspicious transactions to FinCEN. The proposed rules also would include RIAs within the definition of “financial institution” in the regulations implementing the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), thereby requiring RIAs to comply with BSA recordkeeping and reporting requirements applicable to financial institutions.

Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) set a compliance date of July 31, 2015 for the ban on payments to third parties for the solicitation of advisory business from any government entity under Rule 206(4)-5 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Pay-to-Play Rule). At the same time, the SEC also clarified in its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on the Pay-to-Play Rule that it would not recommend enforcement action against an investment adviser or its covered associates under the Pay-to-Play Rule for payments to third-party solicitors until the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) have adopted equivalent pay-to-play rules for broker-dealers and municipal advisers, respectively.

SEC logoReturning to an enforcement priority repeatedly articulated over the years (for example, here,  here and here), the SEC recently imposed sanctions on a registered investment advisory firm and two principals arising out of an alleged scheme to inflate the valuations of illiquid mortgage-backed securities held by private investment funds managed by the adviser. The SEC charged that the overvaluations improperly increased the management and performance fees collected by the adviser.

In AlphaBridge Capital Management, LLC, the Order reflecting the parties’ agreement to an aggregate penalty of $5 million, alleged that the firm systematically overstated the value of securities known as interest-only and inverse interest-only floaters. These unlisted, thinly-traded securities are tranches of collateralized mortgage obligations which receive a coupon payment that fluctuates as interest rates change. In the absence of a robust market, these securities are typically valued based on discounted cash flows. The computation of future cash flows and the resulting valuations are heavily dependent on a projection of the percentage of the underlying mortgages that are expected to be prepaid at any given time.

On Thursday, February 5, 2015, Ralph C . Ferrara, Robert J. Cleary and Jonathan E. Richman were invited to Proskauer’s Hedge Fund Breakfast Seminar to speak about the Second Circuit’s insider-trading ruling in Newman/Chaisson.  The litigators provided the group of hedge fund professionals with a helpful overview of

Private equity funds, and individuals affiliated with fund sponsors, are increasingly being named as defendants in lawsuits involving their portfolio companies.  This litigation risk arises most frequently where a fund controls one or more board seats on the portfolio company, or where an individual affiliated with the fund sponsor serves as a senior executive at the portfolio company.

When a fund sponsor (or an individual affiliated with a fund sponsor) is named as a defendant in a lawsuit involving a portfolio company, the initial assessment of the claims, risks, insurance coverage, and indemnification rights is critical.   Some of the key questions for that early assessment are:

  1. What are the board designee’s indemnity rights?  Typically, the board designee has indemnity rights at multiple levels, including the portfolio company level, the fund level, and potentially the management company/sponsor level. The interplay between the rights at different levels, and the priority of the indemnitors’ obligations, requires careful assessment.  Also, it is important to understand that an indemnity right is subject to “credit risk,” as the indemnity is only as strong as the balance sheet of the indemnitor.