Exemptive Relief from CPO Annual Audit Requirement

Managers starting a commodity fund at the end of the year may seek relief from annual audit requirement

CFTC Regulations 4.22(c) and (d) require that each registered CPO file a certified annual report with the CFTC and distribute copies to pool participants within 90 calendar days after the pool’s fiscal year (“audit requirement”).  The principal purpose of these requirements is to ensure that pool participants (fund investors) receive accurate, fair, and timely information on the overall trading performance and financial condition of the pool.  In a situation where a futures/commodities hedge fund was established only a few months or so before the end of the fiscal year, conducting a certified audit at the end of the fiscal year may not be desirable due to costs.  Relief may be available to managers in this situation.  The CPO can request an exemption from the audit requirement from the CFTC.

This article explains how a manager can go about requesting and obtaining an exemption.

Exemptions on a Case-by-Case Basis

The CFTC’s Division of Clearing and Intermediary Oversight (“DCIO”) will grant or deny exemptive relief from the audit requirement on a case-by-case basis, based on each individual CPO’s factual circumstances.  When we spoke informally to a staff member at DCIO, he said that there is no prescriptive list of conditions that will automatically result in exemptive relief but the main factors they seem to take into account are:

  1. the pool has only a handful of participants,
  2. the pool has only a nominal amount of capital contributed and a nominal amount of total net assets, and
  3. each of the participants in the pool has provided a written waiver consenting to the CPO’s exemption from the audit requirement.

In many cases where the exemption was granted, DCIO still placed the following conditions on the CPO:

  1. the CPO must distribute unaudited annual reports to each of the pool’s participants (these unaudited annual reports must otherwise comply with the provisions of CFTC Regulations 4.22(c) and (d)–reprinted in full below), and
  2. at the close of the following fiscal year, the CPO must file an audited annual report that includes the previous unaudited period.

Requesting the Exemption by Email or Letter

DCIO seems to grant exemptions from the audit requirement in response to email or letter  requests from CPOs.  In a 2009 DCIO letter granting exemptive relief, the CPO sent an email to DCIO requesting the exemption.  DCIO found that granting relief in the CPO’s situation was not contrary to Regulation 4.22 nor the public interest.  In particular, it focused on the following facts:

  • the pool began operations in September of 2008,
  • the pool only had 8 participants,
  • the pool had total capital contributions between $300,000-$400,000 as of December of 2008,
  • the pool’s net asset value was between $60,000-$70,000, and
  • the CPO attached waivers from the 8 participants indicating their consent to the exemption.

In a 2010 DCIO letter, DCIO granted the exemption after a CPO sent DCIO a letter requesting the relief and attaching the client waivers.  DCIO reviewed the facts and found granting the exemption was not contrary to Regulation 4.22 nor the public interest.

It is important to note that exemptive letters bind DCIO only with respect to the specific fact situation and persons addressed by the letter and third parties may not rely upon it.  For a full explanation of the CFTC’s exemptive letters, visit the CFTC’s discussion on this topic.  If you are interested in filing for such exemptive relief with respect to your commodity pool, please contact Mallon P.C.

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Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides comprehensive hedge fund start up and regulatory support for commodity pool operators.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

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