Tag Archives: CTA

NFA May Impose Capital Requirements, Other Restrictions on CPOs and CTAs

NFA Suggests New Rules, Solicits Comments from CPOs and CTAs

The NFA recently issued a Notice to Members that included a Request for Comments on a proposal to subject CPOs and CTAs to new rules. These rules, which include a minimum capital requirement for CPOs and CTAs, would be intended to protect customer funds and ensure that CPOs and CTAs have sufficient assets to operate as a going concern.

The NFA justified the need for these rules by citing 26 Member Responsibility Actions that were taken over the past 3 years, mostly against CPOs and CTAs for misuse of customer funds and/or misstatements of net asset values and performance information. Comments are due to the NFA by April 15, 2014.

Rules Under Consideration

The NFA did not propose any language for the rules in its Request for Comments, nor did the NFA suggest any details on how the rules might be drafted. Instead, the NFA implied what rules are under consideration by posing questions to CPOs and CTAs on the utility of certain rules, and on what standards should be applied to implement them.

CPOs and CTAs

• Capital Requirements. CPOs and CTAs may be required to maintain a minimum amount of capital, and to file periodic reports with the NFA to demonstrate compliance. However, the NFA’s Request for Comments indicates a degree of flexibility. For example, the NFA asked for members who oppose a capital requirement to suggest alternatives for ensuring that CPOs and CTAs have sufficient funds to operate as a going concern.

• Inactive NFA Members. NFA members that are not actively trading futures or commodity interests may have their NFA membership withdrawn, so that the NFA can stop expending regulatory resources on these firms.

CPOs Only

• Gatekeeper for Pool Disbursements. CPOs may need to retain an independent third party to approve pool disbursements (a “gatekeeper”).

• NAV Valuation and Reporting. An independent third party may be required to prepare or verify a CPO’s pool NAV valuations, and such valuations may need to be submitted periodically to the NFA.

• Performance Results. An independent third party may have to prepare or verify a CPO’s pool performance results.

• Verification of Pool Assets. CPOs and the entities actually holding pool assets may both be required to report pool asset amounts to the NFA, so that the NFA can cross-reference the reports for consistency. This could be similar to rules currently in place for futures commission merchants.

Conclusion

The new rules being considered are in the earliest stages of development, but it is clear that the NFA is concerned about the misuse of customer funds and the risks posed by undercapitalized CPOs and CTAs. Any CPOs or CTAs interested in commenting on the rules under consideration should submit their comments to the NFA via email to CPOandCTAfeedback@nfa.futures.org by April 15, 2014.

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Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides legal advice to the managed futures industry and works with FCMs, IBs, CPOs, and CTAs.  Bart Mallon can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

CTA Expo 2011 Chicago

Ronnie Lott Keynote Speaker at CTA Conference

We are gearing up for the CTA Expo in Chicago next month. The CTA Expo, which is also held in New York and London, has become the go-to event for CTAs and others member of the managed futures industry. As always, the NIBA will be having its own conference the day before the CTA Expo and there will be a joint NIBA/CTA Cocktail Party.

The NIBA event will be September 12, 2011 and the agenda includes:

  • Rules, Regulations, Revenue: Round III with Moderator Steve Pherson from Schuyler Roche
  • Grow Your Business by Hiring the Right People by Pat Lunkes of Parkway Consulting Group
  • Marketing Strategy Makeover by Candyce Edelen & Phil Donaldson of Propel Growth
  • A Bubble in Commodities: What to Look for by Darin Newsom of Telvent DTN
  • Anatomy of an Online Marketing Campaign: Generating Leads Online by Shane Stiles of Gate 39 Media

The CTA Expo will be September 13, 2011 and the  agenda includes:

  • Welcoming Remarks by Bucky Isaacson and Frank Pusateri
  • Maximizing the Value of your Conference Attendance by Ron Suber of Merlin Securities
  • Successful Marketing in Asia by Rumi Morales of the CME Group
  • Reputation – Creating Power Through Personal Branding by Lida Citroen
  • Keynote Speach by Ronnie Lott of All Stars Helping Kids<

    /a> – Professional Sports and Business – Lessons Learned

  • Marketing Managed Futures in Europe –

    Tips from the Trenches by Simon Rostron of Rostron Parry

  • The Regulatory Environment in 2011 and Beyond by Dan Driscoll of the National Futures Association
  • The Role of Emerging Managers in a Portfolio by Joseph Schlater of Busara Advisors
  • Institutional Investors and What They Look For in a Manager by Keith Palzer of Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • The Marketing Impact of a Professional Back Office by Dana Comolli of DMAXX
  • Promoting Managed Futures as an Investment by Mark Melin of High Performance Managed Futures

Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP has been a sponsor of the CTA Expo since 2009 and this year we will be introducing Ron Suber of Merlin Securities on Tuesday morning.  For more information on the events, please see the CTA Expo program and NIBA Conference schedule.

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Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides legal advice to CTAs and CPOs, including NFA compliance and regulatory guidance.  For more information, please see our CTA and CPO Registration and Compliance Guide or call Bart Mallon directly at 415-868-5345.

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Emerging CTA Contest

Futures Magazine Looks to Profile “Hot New CTAs”

Futures magazine is looking to profile new CTAs for their annual feature entitled “Hot New CTAs.”  The requirements for potential inclusion in the survey include:

  • have managed customer funds for at least one year as of the end of August
  • have less than $25 million of AUM
  • have a disclosure document
  • have an audited track record

If you are interested, you should pick up a copy of Futures magazine.  The deadline for submissions is August 20.

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Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides legal support as well as CTA and CPO registration services to futures and commodities advisors.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

Recent Issues with NFA Annual Questionnaire

As we discussed in an earlier post on NFA Annual Questionnaire, NFA Member Firms are required to complete the questionnaire on an annual basis.  The information helps the NFA in a variety of ways and the NFA encourages members to update their questionnaire on a regular basis, although firms are only required to complete it, at a minimum, on the anniversary of their NFA Membership date.

Number of Half-turn Trades Issue

One issue that we are seeing clients deal with is the last question which applies to commodity trading advisors (CTAs) and commodity pool operators (CPOs).   The question is as follows:

For CTAs and CPOs only: Provide the following information for accounts held by CTAs and/or CPOs:

How many total domestic futures and options trades (half-turns) did your firm place directly with an FCM in the last 12 months? Please include trades for customer, commodity pool (both regulated pools and pools exempt pursuant to CFTC Part 4 Regulations) and proprietary accounts, but do not include trades that were actually placed by another money manager on behalf of any of these accounts.

The issue is that the question asks for the total amount of half-turn trades were completed over the last 12 months.  This could be an absolutely huge number and it would be onerous for a CTA or a CPO to go back and actually count each trade (unless the broker/clearing firm was keeping track for the CTA or CPO).  Accordingly, I have now talked with the NFA twice about this issue and they have confirmed that an approximate or estimated number is sufficient for the purposes of the questionnaire.  While such informal guidance is not binding, it seems like the NFA wants to have a general idea of the trading volumes and is not going to “ding” a manager if the exact number is not determined.

Issues for Forex CTAs and Forex CPOs

Even before the forex registration regulations were proposed, many forex-only managers registered with the CFTC as either forex CTAs or CPOs.  I asked the NFA compliance department how such managers should answer the above question as would not make sense in the spot forex context.  The NFA said that such managers should answer the above question by placing a 0 (zero) in the appropriate box (assuming there was only spot forex trading).

If you have other questions or issues when you are completing the annual questionnaire, you can either call the NFA or your compliance professional.  Also, please let us know what your issues are so we can update this article accordingly.

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Other related NFA compliance articles include:

Bart Mallon, Esq. runs the Hedge Fund Law Blog and provides hedge fund information and manager registration services through Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP He can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

NFA Self-Examination Checklist 2010 | FCMs, IBs, CPOs and CTAs

Easy Step by Step Guide for NFA Member Firms

NFA Member Firms are all required to complete a yearly self-examination checklist to ensure that the Member Firm is complying with all the NFA Rules (as well as the CFTC Regulations and other applicable laws).  The NFA has provided some resources on their website.  We believe that the resources are good, but they are not easy to use for NFA Member Firms.  Accordingly, Mallon P.C. has reworked the forms into a more easy-to-use format.  Below is a description on how you should proceed with this process along with the various checklists that each Member Firm should print off and complete.

All of the checklists below are based on, and contain the same information, as the NFA checklists which can be found here.

Overview of Process

The whole process should take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours (or more) depending on the exact structure of the NFA Member Firm.  Firm authorized personnel should complete the following steps:

  1. Print off the General Checklist
  2. Print off the Registration Specific Checklist
  3. Print off the Attestation Sheet
  4. Go through the checklists step by step and write notes and initial the appropriate areas.  If a certain area is not applicable, write N/A.
  5. Sign the Attestation Sheet
  6. File the Checklists according to the Firm’s internal compliance procedures

If there are compliance issues which arise during the course of the self-examination process, please record the issue and how the issue has been or will be addressed.  Do not try to cover up the issue – the NFA is more interested in the fact that a firm identifies and appropriately deals with compliance issues than a firm that has a perfect self-exam checklist (through a cover-up).  Do not be afraid to take ample notes in the appropiate places on the checklist – this will show the NFA examiners that the Firm is committed to thinking about the relevant compliance issues.

* Note: there are other yearly compliance procedures that a firm will need to complete in addition to the self-examination checklist.  For more information, please see the Mallon P.C. NFA Compliance Guide or contact your compliance consultant.  Please note that the compliance guide may not cover all compliance requirements.

Checklists

Each Member Firm will need to complete at least two checklists – (1) a general NFA Member Firm checklist and (2) a specific registration category checklist (i.e. FCM, IB, CPO, CPA).

General Checklist

Registration Specific Checklist

Attestation

Each Member Firm will need to complete an attestation sheet which acknowledges that the Firm has completed the annual self-examination checklists.

Appendices

Each of the checklists makes reference to certain appendices.  Below we have created links to those appendices.

Acronyms

Each of the checklists include acronyms.  We have listed them below for your convenience.

  • AML – Anti-Money Laundering
  • AP – Associated Person
  • BASIC – Background Affiliation Status Information Center
  • BSA – Bank Secrecy Act
  • CIP – Customer Identification Program
  • CRD – Central Registration Depository
  • DSRO – Designated Self-Regulatory Organization
  • FATF – Financial Action Task Force
  • FIFO – First-in, First-out
  • FinCEN – Financial Crimes Enforcement Network
  • NAV – Net Asset Value
  • NCCT – Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories
  • OFAC – Office of Foreign Assets Control
  • SAR – Suspicious Activity Report
  • SDN – Specially Designated Nationals
  • SPAN – Standard Portfolio Analysis

Rules & Regulations

Some of the checklists have references to certain CFTC Regulations and NFA Rules.  We have listed them below for your convenience.

  • CFTC Part 4 Regulations
  • CFTC Regulation 160
  • CFTC Interpretation #10
  • NFA Compliance Rule 2-7
  • NFA Compliance Rule 2-29
  • NFA Compliance Rule 2-30
  • NFA Bylaw 1301
  • Securities Exchange Act of 1933 – Sections 9(a), 9(b), 10(b)

Forms

Some of the checklists have references to forms and these are included below.

  • CFTC Form 40
  • CFTC Form 8-T
  • Form U5

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Other related NFA compliance articles include:

Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP runs the Hedge Fund Law Blog.  He can be reached directly at 415-868-5345

NFA Annual Questionnaire

Reminder to NFA Member Firms

As part of the annual processes and procedures NFA Members will need to make sure that they complete the NFA Annual Questionnaire.  As discussed below in the NFA’s most recent notice to members, it is important that NFA Members complete the questionnaire because some of the answers will appear as BASIC entries sometime within the first half of 2010 (for an image of this, please see Notice to Members I-10-02, reprinted in full below).  Below we have provided an overview of the major items which are addressed on the questionnaire.  NFA Members are urged to complete the NFA’s Self Exam Checklist prior to logging in to complete the questionnaire.

Questionnaire Items

The annual questionnaire actually requires the NFA Member to provide fairly detailed information on the nature of the Member’s business and the extent in which the Member participates in certain aspects of the industry such as trading in the forex markets.  Each firm will need to complete a section called “Firm & DR Information” as well as one section (or multiple sections if applicable) devoted to CTA, CPO, IB, or FCM specific questions.  Below we’ve outlined the major categories.

CTA Questionnaire

The central part of the CTA questionnaire focuses on information related to the trading program.  Such information requested includes: nominal AUM, forex account information, number of accounts trading Securities Futures Products (SFPs)*, most recent disclosure document date, whether any exemptions exist, types of investors, etc.

* A securities futures contract is a legally binding agreement between two parties to purchase or sell in the future a specific quantity of shares of a single equity security or narrow-based securities Index (e.g. products traded on One Chicago or NQLX). It does not include broad-based indices such as the S&P 500 or Dow.

CPO Questionnaire

The central part of the CPO questionnaire focuses on information related to the commodity pool.  Such information requested includes: pool trading information, question on restrictions (if any), forex trading information (if applicable), SFP trading (if applicable), most recent disclosure document date, whether any exemptions exist, etc.

Firm & DR Information

In the Firm & DR Information section you will need to include certain information on the preparer (name, title, phone, email) and you will need to complete firm information and disaster recovery information.

Firm Information

For the firm information there are a number of questions regarding the number of accounts to which the firm is currently providing advice, whether the firm is engaged in forex activities, the extent to which the firm utilizes advertising (tv/radio, print, internet), and/or whether the firm is registered in other capacity.  Importantly, there is a question regarding whether the firm has completed the self-exam checklist within the last 12 months.

Disaster Recovery Information

All NFA Member firms are required to have addressed disaster recovery.  For the purposes of the questionnaire, Members are required to provide primary and secondary contact information.  Specifically, the instructions are as follows:

For purposes of business continuity and disaster recovery, members are required to provide NFA with the name and contact information for one or two persons who NFA can contact during an emergency. Since this information will serve as an alternative contact in the event you are unable to continue doing business at your main location, the contact information that you provide should be different from that of your main location.

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Notice to Members I-10-02

January 6, 2010

Reminder to all Members to complete new questions in Annual Questionnaire assessing Member’s futures-related and off-exchange forex business

On November 30, 2009, NFA issued Notice to Members I-09-21 [HFLB Note: reprinted directly below] requesting all Members to complete a series of new questions located in the Annual Questionnaire assessing their futures-related business. Although some NFA Members have complied with this request, many have not. It is critical that Members access and complete questions in the Firm and DR Information section of the Annual Questionnaire as soon as possible. This applies not only to Members trading on-exchange futures products but also Members trading in the off-exchange foreign currency (forex) market.

Beginning in early 2010 NFA’s BASIC system will display information reflecting whether firms are actively engaged in futures-related business activity or not. If the questions are not answered, the answers will default to no activity, which is what will be displayed in BASIC, as illustrated below.

For additional information and instructions on accessing the Annual Questionnaire, click here.

If you have any questions, please contact NFA’s Information Center at 800-621-3570 or 312-781-1410.

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Notice I-09-21

November 30, 2009

NFA adds new questions to Annual Questionnaire to assess Member’s futures-related business

NFA has approximately 500 firms that are NFA Members but have represented to NFA via their Annual Questionnaire that they are not doing any business that requires membership (“Inactive firms”). Almost universally, these Members indicate that they maintain their membership because they may do business in the future.

Since 2006, NFA has taken several Member Responsibility Actions against Member firms that had told NFA they were inactive. These actions were taken after NFA obtained information from reviewing the internet, through contacts with other NFA Members, and by receiving customer complaints suggesting that these firms were in fact active.

Due to these disciplinary actions, NFA’s Board of Directors requested that beginning in early 2010 NFA’s BASIC system display information reflecting whether firms are actively engaged in futures-related business activity or not. Presumably, if a Member is identified in BASIC as not conducting futures-related business, this will raise a “red flag” to potential customers who are being solicited by an Inactive Firm.

Specifically, BASIC will contain information regarding whether or not the Member has on-exchange customer accounts, manages customer accounts, operates pools, is engaged in retail off-exchange foreign currency activities and/or is soliciting customer business. This information will be based solely on information that Member firms provide in their responses to the questions in the Firm and DR Information section of the Annual Questionnaire.

NFA has re-designed this portion of the Annual Questionnaire by adding new questions and moving certain questions from other sections. Firms may update the answers in the Firm and DR Information section of the Annual Questionnaire at any time.

It is critical that Members access and complete questions in the Firm and DR Information section of the Annual Questionnaire as soon as possible. If the questions are not answered, the answers will default to no activity, which is what will be displayed in BASIC.

Please follow these instructions to access the Annual Questionnaire and provide the required information.

1. Open the Questionnaire system using this link: https://www.nfa.futures.org/AppEntry/Redirect.aspx?app=SPECIAL_QUESTION

2. Enter your ORS ID and password to logon.

3. From the “Online Questionnaire Index” screen, select “Firm and DR Information” under “Questionnaire Type.” (In addition, if you have not completed your most recent Questionnaire, you should update the previous version at this time.)

4. Update the Preparer Information on the next screen, if necessary, and then click “Next.”

5. To respond to this special request,

a. Answer the questions listed at the top of the screen under the heading “Please address the following questions regarding you firm’s business operations”.

b. After answering the applicable question(s), scroll to the bottom of the screen and click the “Submit Filing” button.

c. The system will then confirm that you submitted the updated Questionnaire to NFA.

If you have any questions about this Notice, please contact NFA’s Information Center at 800.621.3570 or 312.781.1410.

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Other articles related to CTAs and CPOs include:

If you are a manager or firm that needs to register as a CTA or CPO, or if you are contemplating registration, please contact Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman &  Mallon LLP at 415-868-5345.

CTA Lead List Basics

By Bart Mallon, Esq. (www.colefrieman.com)

“Purchased Lead Lists and How to Use Them”

A good resource for CTAs that are actively trying to raise money are lead lists – lists of names and contact information of potential future clients or investors.  This overview is for the CTA Expo 2009 program entitled Purchased Lead Lists and How to Use Them.  The program was sponsored by Patke & Associates and featured Jacques DeRouen of Pinnacle Alternative Investments.

Jacques started off by telling all of the CTAs that they need to get out and market to investors.  The point is to get your story to willing listening.  He then provided us with a brief background of how he got involved with lists and how he learned to use lists effectively.  The biggest takeaway is that getting good at using lead lists takes time and dedication – but don’t let the list intimidate you.  From here he discussed a number of items about lead lists in general.

Lead Lists in General

There are many different types of lists and the lists come in a variety of different formats and include various different types of information.  CTAs should research exactly what they will get with these lists and some questions which the purchaser should ask include the following:

  • Has the list maker described their list and what they provide?
  • What is the reputation of the list maker?
  • Does the list have references, if no, then why?
  • Is there a free sample?
  • What information is on the list – key contact names, size of the investor, email addresses.

CTA managers should think about making some calls to the investors on the sample lists which are released.  Basically the manager wants to make sure that the list is not something that was simply culled from the phone book – the leads need to be warmer.  If they are providing a general list of investors, this is ok but it will probably take you more time.

Budget

The biggest thing to consider is your budget.  If you don’t have money in the budget to buy a list, then don’t buy it.  A CTA should always be aware of the fees coming in and be able to justify any expenses, which includes a list.

Prepping an Investor Database

When you get a lead list it will typically be in some sort of spreadsheet like excel and it will be up to the CTA to clean up the data and make it user friendly.  There are a number of different ways to establish databases that will work for keeping track of investors contacted and to contact.  After formatting a database or input, the CTA should always back-up the new, manipulated data.  From here the CTA will want to export the manipulated data to a CRM.  There are a number of customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions which allow managers to manipulate large raw sets of data, such as the lead lists. It is very important for the CTA to take good notes about the interactions with the leads.

Notes About Emailing Investors from Lead Lists

Emailing your marketing presentation can be a very effective way to market to some of the investors on the lead lists.  However, CTAs should not send every piece of marketing material that they have.  A CTA may want to think about emailing a summary presentation with bullett points.  A teaser like this sets the plate so that when the CTA follows up with the lead (with a phone call), the lead has a little bit of background on the manager, but is not overwhelmed (or worse, annoyed).  CTAs should be aware that even with the best lead lists there is likely to be some email kickback from natural changes in the composition of the company.  The best systems are likely to have 2-3% kickback, the middle tiered lists are likely to have 5-10% kickback and the lower quality lists are likely to have much more.

Approaching Fund of Fund Investors

While many fund of fund investors don’t actively advertise that they allocate to emerging managers, they do and CTA firms should be calling these managers.  Even if a FOF manager decided not to invest with the CTA manager, calling is still a good way to connect and develop a relationship – potentially that relationship can develop down the line.  Fund of fund managers do like CTA and other emerging managers not only because of the potential returns but also because the FOF managers are likely to be able to negotiate carve-outs of the CTA manager’s future capacity.

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This article first appeared in the CTA Expo Blog run by Bart Mallon, Esq.  Mr. Mallon also runs the Hedge Fund Law Blog and is committed to providing useful and easy to understand information for CTAs and CPOs which can be found in our CTA and CPO Registration and Compliance Guide. For more information on CTA registration or compliance services please contact Mr. Mallon at 415-868-5345.

CTA Regulatory and Compliance Discussion

By Bart Mallon, Esq. (www.colefrieman.com)

“Compliance in a Changing Environment”

As we are all well aware both the investing and the regulatory environments have experienced a dramatic refocusing on compliance and related issues in the wake of the 2008 meltdown and the Bernie Madoff affair.  This overview is for the CTA Expo 2009 program entitled Compliance in a Changing Environment.  The program was sponsored by Woodfield Fund Administration and featured Kate Dressel of Strategic Compliance Solutions as well as Patty Cushing of the National Futures Association.

Ms. Dressel announced that compliance and processes and procedures have become increasingly important, especially since investors are now concerned about fraud.  The best defense with regard to fraud, and an theme that pervaded this and other discussions, is that a CTA needs to have a reputable accountant and auditor.  Having reputable service providers (including administrators, auditors and legal firms) will help potential investors/clients to feel more comfortable with the CTA and the investment program.

Ms. Cushing, who is the associate director for Risk Management and Member Education at the NFA, began by emphasizing that CTA performance information needs to be accurate.  She also mentioned that CTAs really need to be focused on trading and the other business issues, especially accounting and legal, should be done by experienced people or service providers.  Ms. Cushing made reference to the NFA’s spreadsheet (although I could not find this on the NFA’s website) as well as an informative webscast by the NFA discussing CTA Performance Reporting webcast.  Basically she said that if you don’t want to spend the time making sure that all of the numbers are perfect, then you are going to need to use a consulting firm.

If you self administrer you are going to need to think about an outside administrator so that there will be increased oversight.

Ms. Dressel talked about the current industry buzzword – transparency.  Transparency is important, she went on, not just in trading but in all aspects of the CTA business.  Compliance and operations, especially, need well ordered and solid procedures in place.  Oversight is the key and it is very important that the principals are aware of everything that is going on in the firm.

[Note: Ms. Cushing talked about forex managers and noted that forex managers needed to make sure they were submitting their forex disclosure documents to the NFA for review.  I spoke with Ms. Cushing after the session was over to gain clarification over her statement and also discuss the forex registration rules which were supposed to be proposed by the CFTC some time ago.  For clarification, I want to point out that forex managers only need to have the NFA review their forex disclosure documents if they are already a member of the NFA – that is, if they are already registered as a CTA or CPO.  Forex only managers who are currently not registered with the NFA (and who trade only in the off-exchange spot markets) currently do not need to register with the NFA.  I discussed this with Ms. Cushing and asked if she had seen a draft of the registration rules or if she had heard anything from the CFTC as to when the rules might be proposed – she said that the CFTC has been working on the rules but that she has no idea when or if the rules will be proposed.  She seemed to be parroting the CFTC on this issue – the agency has told me a number of times that they are working on the rules and that they will be proposed shortly.]

Ms. Cushing mentioned that some CTA firms will actually use a previous NFA audit as a kind of “stamp of approval” by the regulatory agency.  Although the NFA audit is only designed for the NFA Member who was subject to the audit, some Members will send these to their clients.  Accoring to Ms. Cushing, the NFA is taking no opinion with regard to this practice.  She did note, however, that such reports might not be the best source of information regarding a firm’s procedures as it might be out of date.

Ms. Dressel mentioned that mock audits for CTAs are good to pursue – you can contact a number of outside firms like her own that can help a manager through a mock audit.  Not only does a mock audit help a firm for an actual NFA audit, but it will also help to identify operational issues which the manager can refocus upon.

One of the most important items that CTAs should be aware of is their marketing materials and disclosure documents.  It is imperative that CTA firms make sure that every statement in the disclosure documents and other marketing materials be true.  CTA firms should not try to stretch the truth – potential investors are check and there is a whole new paradigm.  Any stretched truth will be uncovered during the due diligence process which now includes, for some managers, phorensic accounting to make sure that trading parameters have been consistently adheared to.  Investors now need absolute confidence in who you are and what you do.

CTA firms should be vigilant about making sure they stick to the trading parameters in the disclosure documents.

A very good piece of advice is that if there is anything in your disclosure documents which is not true, you need to update your documents.  [BM note: and potentially discuss the change with your current investors/clients.]

Ms. Cushing noted that there a number of ways to that your firm can prepare for an NFA audit.  The first step is to read and be aware of the NFA’s yearly self-examination checklist.  [Note: if you do not know about the self-exam checklist, and if you do not have a compliance program in place, please see a CTA attorney or compliance person immediately to become compliant.  The self-exam checklist is a central part of a good compliance program.]  Ms. Cushing urged those firms who have questions about the checklist to call the NFA (although, in practice, this is usually an effort in futility as the staff will generally not ask questions and tell firms to consult with an attorney or other compliance professionals).

Questions From Audience

After this we had an opportunity to move onto questions from the attendees.  One comment came from Fred Gehm who has worked in due diligence for a fund of funds which allocated to the CTAs through separately managed accounts.  He made the statement that if the manager doesn’t have an external administrator the FOF will not allocate to that CTA – even if the CTA has audited returns.  He also made the comment that 10-15% of the time CTAs (or other managers) will lie to him and he will catch it.  Obviously in these cases the FOF does not allocate to such a group.  He said that many times if the manager had been honest about fact in the first place, it would likely have been something that would have been passed over but for the lied.

Ms. Cushing and Ms. Dressel emphasized that the CTA is ultimately responsible for making sure that the books and records are correct – even if there is an outside administrator, the CTA needs to take an active role in this area.

The next questioner noted that family offices and pensions are beginning to get involved in the CTA space and he wondered how smaller CTAs can set up structures to be well positioned for such investors.  Ms. Dressel suggested that the CTA manager get as much of the program together as possible – this means the manager should try to get the best administrators, auditors and legal counsel that they can afford.  The manager should also be able to completely answer a standard due diligence questionnaire – these questionnaires highlight some of the important structural and governance items that family offices and pensions will be focusing on.

Mr. Gehm mentioned that he is concerned with two central issues when allocating to small CTAs: (1) custody and (2) risk management.  With the first, custody, he said he was especially concerned with who signs the checks and where is the dollar control.  Fred recommended that CTAs have secondary signer for disbursements.  With regard to the second issue, risk management, he said he looked for a structure where someone with independent authority had authority with regard to this issue.  The key here is that the risk manager should have no fear of losing his job, that there is contractual safeguards for him doing his risk management.

There were a couple of other brief questions before the session ended.  One takeaway with regard to risk management is to think about things throughout the organization – key man provisions and plans for odd eventualities.  The more that a CTA manager really thinks about and understands the risk of his business, the better it will be for the investors and the more likely for the CTA manager to have an easier time raising capital.

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This article was first printed on the CTA Expo Blog.  This article was contributed by Bart Mallon, Esq. who runs the Hedge Fund Law Blog and is committed to providing useful and easy to understand information for CTAs and CPOs which can be found in our CTA and CPO Registration and Compliance Guide. For more information on CTA registration or compliance services please contact Bart Mallon, Esq. at 415-868-5345.

CTA Advertising and Marketing Issues to Consider

By Bart Mallon, Esq. (www.colefrieman.com)

Marketing for Small CTAs

For small commodity trading advisory (CTA) firms, marketing and advertising the expertise of the principals is a central way to gain new clients and make more money.  This overview is for the CTA Expo 2009 program entitled Marketing for Small CTAs. The program was sponsored by Traderview and featured Frank Pusateri of Adirondack Portfolios as well as Bucky Isaacson of Future Funding Consultants. While I was unable to catch this beginning session of the CTA expo 2009, I was able to catch the last ten to fifteen minutes of the session, which I found to be particularly helpful (for small and start up CTAs) as well as interesting.  It seemed like many of the participants were engaged as well.

General Background on CTA Advertising

CTAs are allowed to market and advertise their services.  Unlike hedge fund managers, who are prohibited from marketing pursuant to Regulation D and other federal and state regulations, CTA advertising has the potential to reach a large portion of the investing population – CTAs can and should take advantage of such marketing rules.  [Note: we will be providing information at a later date regarding some of the legal and compliance issues that CTAs should be aware of when developing a marketing program.]

A good marketing program will be multi-faceted and will include a website (including potentially a blog), direct email campaigns, listings in CTA databases, and networking events among other items.  The rest of this article will focus on CTA websites.

CTA Websites and Visitor Information

One way for CTAs to advertise is to put up a good and effective website advertising the manager’s services.  While it will take the manager some time to create the initial content and layout of the website, there is relatively little additional time needed to maintain the webiste.  Many of the updating functions can be outsourced as well, so the manager can concentrate on trading.

Frank noted that he had one CTA ask him what he thought about their website which cost $50,000. Frank said that it looked good but that the CTA firm did not ask for the visitor’s name, address or telephone number and that there was no place on the website to collect that information. This represents a lost opportunity because, presumably, visitors come to your website to find out more information about you – you in essence know that the people visiting your site are potential investors. Having visitors provide you with their basic contact information is equivalent to a warm lead and if you don’t even have a way to collect this then you are wasting opportunities.

Question Period

Frank was able to answer questions from the audience. One participant asked if Frank could name a CTA firm which did a good job at marketing themselves. He mentioned that he thought Northfield Trading did a pretty good job with much of their literature and marketing materials.

Many of the same issues, which were touched on during my brief time at this session, are discussed in later sessions in greater depth. We will examine these in turn.

The next article discusses Compliance in a Changing Environment which is sponsored by Woodfield Fund Administration and which featured Kate Dressel of Strategic Compliance Solutions as well as Patty Cushing of the National Futures Association.

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This article was first printed on the CTA Expo Blog.  Mr. Mallon also runs the hedge fund law blog and is committed to providing useful and easy to understand information for CTAs and CPOs which can be found in our CTA and CPO Registration and Compliance Guide. For more information on CTA registration or compliance services please contact Bart Mallon, Esq. at 415-868-5345.

CTA Expo 2009

Commodity Trading Advisor Conference

Next week there will be a conference for Commodity Trading Advisors held in Chicago at the Hotel Monaco.  The conference, entitled the CTA Expo 2009, will be held on Wednesday and will feature a variety of topics of interest to CTAs.  The agenda includes:

I will be representing my firm, Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP, at the conference and I look forward to meeting with the different traders and service providers at the event.  Each entrant will also receive a CTA Directory which will include a “tear sheet” on all of the groups which attended.  Please see the Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP description of CTA services.

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Event information can be found here.  There is also a CTA Expo LinkedIn Group.

CTA EXPO 2009
October 21, 2009
Hotel Monaco Chicago, Illinois

CTA EXPO consists of a day of roundtables and seminars for Commodity Trading Advisors on marketing strategy combined with an all day schedule of thirty minute presentations by individual CTAS to small groups of professional money raisers, asset allocators and interested clients who are seeking to identify additional trading talent.

The debut conference in 2008 sold out in advance and was attended by over thirty-five CTAs and over sixty people who registered as professional money raisers and asset allocators. We have increased capacity for 2009 and interest in this year’s event has already been tremendous and we are anticipating another sold out event.

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The hedge fund law blog is committed to providing useful and easy to understand information for CTAs and CPOs which can be found in our CTA and CPO Registration and Compliance Guide.  For more information on registration or compliance services please contact Bart Mallon, Esq. at 415-868-5345.