Monthly Archives: April 2017

Hedge Fund Bits and Pieces for April 14, 2017

Happy Friday.  Markets are closed today for the holiday and it is tax day this Tuesday.  Enjoy the weekend!

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SEC Brings Actions Against Authors on Investment Article Platforms – platforms like Seeking Alpha and SumZero have been popular places for investment managers to post articles about their investment ideas.  Managers post for a number of reasons including to hone their own investment thesis, hear counterarguments and to generally be part of a community actively involved in the discussion of ideas.  We routinely work with managers who are posting articles on these platforms and help them think about the compliance obligations they have with respect to any postings.

The SEC just announced a major series of enforcement actions against 27 individuals for posting fake and fraudulent articles on these platforms.  Settlements have already ranged from $2,200 to almost $3 million.  While the standard hedge fund manager we deal with is unlikely to be involved in the creation of fake or fraudulent articles (or using these platforms to manipulate positions), these enforcement actions show that the SEC is actively looking at information posted on the internet as a way to find persons involved in securities violations.   Most registered managers will already have social media policies in place that should deal with situations like this, including how to document the posting, but we also recommend that managers discuss articles with their attorneys or compliance personnel before posting.  We believe that (to the extent it has not already happened) the SEC will be closely scrutinizing internet postings during routine manager examinations and that managers need to make sure any such actions are not manipulating the markets (in addition to making sure there is no appearance of manipulation).

FINRA 360 Announced – FINRA just announced a new initiative to “evaluate various aspects of its operations and programs to identify opportunities to more effectively further its mission.”  The initiative is was announced as FINRA 360 in Regulatory Notice 17-14 and focuses on the following, in addition to other FINRA rules: CAB Rules, Funding Portal Rules, Numerous FINRA rules and the Trading Activity Fee.  The goal of FINRA 360 is to ”increase efficiency and reduce unnecessary burdens on the capital-raising process without compromising important protections for issuers and investors” which we think is a step in the right direction.  However, we have previously discussed two FINRA initiatives (here re CABs and here re scrapping the 7) as perhaps a bit misguided.  In any event, we think FINRA is taking a great step here and we also believe that this provides an opportunity for the industry to provide FINRA with meaningful feedback and ideas.  All are encouraged to comment and comments are due by May 30, 2017.

Greyline Solutions Expands Compliance Offering to Broker-Dealers – the regulatory compliance consulting company Greyline Solutions (editors note: I am a minority owner in this business) announced the upcoming acquisition of Vista Compliance which will add significant broker-dealer expertise to its RIA offerings.  For more information, please see the press release.

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Bart Mallon is a founding partner of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP and focuses his legal practice on the investment management industry. He can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

Greyline Solutions Continues Expansion

Regulatory Compliance Consulting Company Adds Significant Broker-Dealer Practice

Below is a press release from Greyline Solutions, one of the premier regulatory consulting groups (editors note: I have an ownership interest in this company and have worked with the acquired company, Vista Compliance, and Talia Brandt for a number of years).  I’d like to send my congratulations to all on the Greyline team!

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Greyline Solutions Expands with Addition of Vista Compliance

Greyline Solutions announces partnership with Vista Compliance. Talia Brandt to lead broker-dealer practice for Greyline.

San Francisco, Calif. – April 13, 2017 – Greyline Solutions, LLC, a premier financial regulatory and
compliance consulting firm headquartered in San Francisco, is partnering with Vista Compliance, a national compliance consulting firm based in San Francisco. The transaction, which is expected to close on May 1, 2017, will expand Greyline’s presence to the East Coast. It will also create a broker-dealer practice, which will be led by Talia Brandt, Vista’s founder.

Brandt and her team of senior consultants – who each have more than 10 years of industry experience, including experience at regulators – will reinforce Greyline’s ability to support alternative asset managers and traditional investment advisers in their compliance efforts.

“For the past nine years, Vista has been steadily growing our business by servicing investment advisers and broker dealers with a client-centric orientation and a commitment to partner with our clients to meet their compliance needs. In joining forces with Greyline, we are excited to leverage our offering by expanding our presence in other markets,” says Brandt.

“Vista’s success is impressive. Its depth of SEC and FINRA compliance experience, including experience working at regulators, has made it a top choice for managers looking for high-touch, institutional-quality services,” says Matthew Okolita, chief executive officer of Greyline. “Vista’s commitment to sustainable quality services aligns perfectly with our mission, and this partnership will allow us continue our efforts to expand nationally across all spectrums of the asset management industry.”

About Greyline Solutions

Headquartered in San Francisco, Greyline Solutions is a national compliance consulting firm offering comprehensive compliance solutions for businesses in the securities industry. Greyline prides itself on tailoring compliance management solutions to the unique needs its clients, which include private equity, venture capital, hedge fund managers, commodity pool operators and other investment managers, as well as businesses ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups to multi-billion dollar international institutions. Custom technology and experienced staff are two of the hallmarks of Greyline’s offerings. The firm is comprised of securities industry
professionals with decades of experience in the financial and regulatory industries. Its mission is to simplify the process, minimize risk, and lower costs, with the core goal of helping clients focus on building and enhancing their businesses.

Contact Information
Matthew Okolita
Greyline Solutions LLC
http://www.greylinesolutions.com
415.604.9527

Hedge Fund Bits and Pieces for April 7, 2017

Happy Masters Friday!

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End Game of Mini-Prime Consolidation? – earlier this week Cowen announced the acquisition of Convergex.  For Cowen, this is the second introducing prime (mini-prime) acquisition in the last two years, the earlier coming when they acquired Concept Capital in July of 2015.

There are a number of interesting things about this transaction – first, it appears that final consolidation of the introducing prime space has occurred (Cowen and BTIG).  Given the reluctance for any major prime to accept new introducing business, it seems unlikely we would see another group try to get into this space, at least in the current environment.  Second, Cowen has been very active and aggressive with its expansion activities and its efforts to rebrand.  Just last week Cowen announced it received a $100M investment from China Energy Company Limited along with a promise to provide up to $175M in debt financing (presumably this capital was for the purchase of Convergex).  Additionally, we have heard small rumors that Cowen is in the process of rebranding their Ramius division to more align with the Cowen name.

FINRA Blockchain Report Comments Posted – in January FINRA published a report entitled Distributed Ledger Technology: Implications of Blockchain for the Securities Industry.  The report provides an overview of blockchain technology and discusses, among other items, the regulatory considerations for groups who are implementing this technology in certain areas of the securities industry.  FINRA asked for comments on the report and that comment period ended last Friday.  There were a number of interesting comments from both regulatory groups as well as market participants.  In the coming weeks we are planning to provide more analysis on FINRA and other regulatory body efforts in this space.  An overview of the report and links to the comment letters can be found here.

Capital Acquisition Broker (CAB) rules effective April 14, 2017 – in our opinion, there have been a number of misguided attempts by FINRA to modernize and ease certain regulatory frameworks (see our earlier post on the proposal to scrap the Series 7 exam).  Late last year the SEC approved a new category of broker-dealer called a Capital Acquisition Broker which could engage in certain private placement, investment banking and capital raising activities and be subject to a separate set of broker-dealer rules and regulations.  In theory this might be a good thing, but there are a couple of issues with these new rules.  First, the subset of potential groups these rules apply to are very limited (only firms raising money from very large institutions and qualified purchasers can be CABs).  Second, the CAB rules really aren’t that different from the normal FINRA rules applicable to broker-dealers.  The real issue is that FINRA does not have staff who are appropriately trained to understand all the various business models that broker-dealers may have.  We do note that we (and many others) have brought these concerns to FINRA’s attention and we believe the new FINRA president is working to make this better.

In any event, the CAB rules will be effective next Friday and more information on CABs can be found here for those who are interested.  We have not heard of any groups decided to go the CAB route instead of the traditional broker-dealer route, and we will be interested to hear if this changes in the future.

SEC Increases Crowdfunding Limits – pursuant to the requirements under the Dodd-Frank Act that the SEC increase the limits proscribed in the crowdfunding regulations, the SEC increased certain limits under those regulations.  Among other increases, the maximum aggregate amount an issuer can sell in a 12-month period increases to $1,070,000 from $1,000,000 and the maximum amount that can be sold to an investor in a 12-month period increases to $107,000 from $100,000.  More information on the adjustments can be found in the SEC press release on this topic.

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Bart Mallon is a founding partner of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP and focuses his legal practice on the investment management industry.  He can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.