New Accredited Investor Definition

Fund Managers Should Amend Subscription Documents

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Act”) immediately changed the definition of accredited investor. Prior to the enactment of the Act, an accredited investor could use the value of their primary residence to compute the $1,000,000 net worth requirement. Now, investors may not use the value of their primary residence to determine their net worth.  The mortgage or indebtedness on the primary residence, also, does not count against net worth except to the extent that the indebtedness exceeds the fair market value of the residence (see SEC discussion below).

Revising Subscription Documents

Some managers have subscription documents which describe the prior manner of calculating net worth for accredited investors. Such managers should immediately revise their subscription documents. Additionally, if a manager accepts investments from previous individual investors who have declared they are “accredited investors,” the manager should have such investors verify they meet the new net worth requirement. Generally the manager can accomplish this through a fairly simple verification or confirmation form. For those managers who have administration firms process subscription documents, the administration firm should be providing these verification forms to the subscribing investors. With respect to individual investors who are not making additional subscriptions, there is no current requirement to verify their net worth under the new rules.

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Below are the Dodd-Frank laws dealing with the new accredited investor standard.

SEC. 413. ADJUSTING THE ACCREDITED INVESTOR STANDARD.

(a) IN GENERAL.—The Commission shall adjust any net worth standard for an accredited investor, as set forth in the rules of the Commission under the Securities Act of 1933, so that the individual net worth of any natural person, or joint net worth with the spouse of that person, at the time of purchase, is more than $1,000,000 (as such amount is adjusted periodically by rule of the Commission), excluding the value of the primary residence of such natural person, except that during the 4-year period that begins on the date of enactment of this Act, any net worth standard shall be $1,000,000, excluding the value of the primary residence of such natural person.

(b) REVIEW AND ADJUSTMENT.—

(1) INITIAL REVIEW AND ADJUSTMENT.—

(A) INITIAL REVIEW.—The Commission may undertake a review of the definition of the term ‘‘accredited investor’’, as such term applies to natural persons, to determine whether the requirements of the definition, excluding the requirement relating to the net worth standard described in subsection (a), should be adjusted or modified for the protection of investors, in the public interest, and in light of the economy.

(B) ADJUSTMENT OR MODIFICATION.—Upon completion of a review under subparagraph (A), the Commission may, by notice and comment rulemaking, make such adjustments to the definition of the term ‘‘accredited investor’’, excluding adjusting or modifying the requirement relating to the net worth standard described in subsection (a), as such term applies to natural persons, as the Commission may deem appropriate for the protection of investors, in the public interest, and in light of the economy.

(2) SUBSEQUENT REVIEWS AND ADJUSTMENT.—

(A) SUBSEQUENT REVIEWS.—Not earlier than 4 years after the date of enactment of this Act, and not less frequently than once every 4 years thereafter, the Commission shall undertake a review of the definition, in its entirety, of the term ‘‘accredited investor’’, as defined in section 230.215 of title 17, Code of Federal Regulations, or any successor thereto, as such term applies to natural persons, to determine whether the requirements of the definition should be adjusted or modified for the protection of investors, in the public interest, and in light of the economy.

(B) ADJUSTMENT OR MODIFICATION.—Upon completion of a review under subparagraph (A), the Commission may, by notice and comment rulemaking, make such adjustments to the definition of the term ‘‘accredited investor’’, as defined in section 230.215 of title 17, Code of Federal Regulations, or any successor thereto, as such term applies to natural persons, as the Commission may deem appropriate for the protection of investors, in the public interest, and in light of the economy.

SEC. 415. GAO STUDY AND REPORT ON ACCREDITED INVESTORS.

The Comptroller General of the United States shall conduct a study on the appropriate criteria for determining the financial thresholds or other criteria needed to qualify for accredited investor status and eligibility to invest in private funds, and shall submit a report to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate and the Committee on Financial Services of the House of Representatives on the results of such study not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act.

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SEC Discussion on New Net Worth Rules

Section 179. Rule 215 – Accredited Investor

Question 179.01

Question: Under Section 413(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act, the net worth standard for an accredited investor, as set forth in Securities Act Rules 215 and 501(a)(5), is adjusted to delete from the calculation of net worth the “value of the primary residence” of the investor. How should the “value of the primary residence” be determined for purposes of calculating an investor’s net worth?

Answer: Section 413(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act does not define the term “value,” nor does it address the treatment of mortgage and other indebtedness secured by the residence for purposes of the net worth calculation. As required by Section 413(a) of the Dodd-Frank Act, the Commission will issue amendments to its rules to conform them to the adjustment to the accredited investor net worth standard made by the Act. However, Section 413(a) provides that the adjustment is effective upon enactment of the Act. When determining net worth for purposes of Securities Act Rules 215 and 501(a)(5), the value of the person’s primary residence must be excluded. Pending implementation of the changes to the Commission’s rules required by the Act, the related amount of indebtedness secured by the primary residence up to its fair market value may also be excluded. Indebtedness secured by the residence in excess of the value of the home should be considered a liability and deducted from the investor’s net worth. [July 23, 2010]

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Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides legal support and hedge fund registration services to all types of investment managers.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

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