Happy Friday and congrats to everyone on making it though the first quarter! Our firm will be sending out a 2017 first quarter update sometime in the next couple of weeks – if you are not on the distribution list and would like to be, please contact us. We will also post the update to this blog.
Annual ADV Update – due TODAY by 11pm ET (when IARD system shuts down). The ADV annual updates are due today. Most firms have submitted their updates by now but if you have not done so, please call your legal or compliance professional immediately. Additionally, fund managers generally will have their audits completed by today and those should be sent to investors as per the firm’s compliance procedures.
Another Bitcoin Trust Rejected by SEC – on Tuesday the SEC rejected an application by NYSE Arca to list shares of SolidX Bitcoin Trust. The trust was set to a publicly traded vehicle designed to track the price of bitcoins as measured by an index of unregulated bitcoin exchanges (Bitfinex, Bitstamp, GDAX, itBit, and OKCoin International). In rejecting the application, the SEC stated that it believes that the bitcoin markets are unregulated. This is the second rejected listing of a bitcoin product for retail investors (see earlier post discussing the rejection of the Winklevoss bitcoin ETF).
SEC Focus on FinTech – it is abundantly clear that technology is beginning to change the capital markets in profound ways. As practitioners, we are working with our clients to figure out how new ways of investing fit within the current regulatory structures applicable to both products and managers. As these changes take deeper root, there will be growing pains and the SEC realizes this – below are recent remarks made on Monday in Washington by acting SEC Chairman Michael Piwowar about the FinTech industry and how the SEC will be working in the space in the future. The full speech, made at the beginning of the SEC’s 27th Annual International Institute for Securities Market Growth and Development, can be found here.
Financial technology (“FinTech”) is also revolutionizing our industry. FinTech can bring tremendous benefits – streamlined market operations and more affordable ways to raise capital and advise clients. Fifty-nine percent of all adults in developing nations do not have a bank account – but this is changing fast. With cell phones now in the pockets of many individuals in even the poorest of nations, mobile technology has greatly cut down on barriers to accessing capital. In Kenya, for example, I saw firsthand the transformative power of FinTech. Sixty-eight percent of Kenyan adults use their mobile phones for monetary transactions. In 2013, over 25% of the Kenyan GNP was transferred via M-PESA, the leading mobile money transfer service in the country. Services like M-PESA are not only for the transfer of money, but also can be used to take out micro-loans that would have been previously unavailable to small businesses. The question for us regulators is how can we encourage this innovation and all the potential benefits that it promises, while also managing the risks? At the SEC, we started a FinTech working group. Not surprisingly, FinTech firms report that their greatest struggle is navigating a complex regulatory environment. The SEC, and other securities regulators, should take the leading role in working with the FinTech community to adapt longstanding laws and regulations to newfangled technology. (footnotes omitted)
- CFTC Announces Committee Meeting on Cybersecurity – the CFTC just announced that the Market Risk Advisory Committee (MRAC) will meet on April 25, 2017 to discuss a number of important issues related to the futures and commodities markets. A central focus of this meeting will be focused on cybersecurity trends in the futures markets. The discussion will also cover “how well the derivatives markets are currently functioning, including the impact and implications of the evolving structure of these markets on the movement of risk across market participants” – we anticipate that some part of the discussion will focus on certain new instruments like cryptocurrencies and the emerging derivate products linked to such instruments. The MRAC’s meeting will be public and be held at the CFTC’s Washington, DC, headquarters.
- Adidas Trademark Issue – while not directly related to the investment management industry, this blog post (produced by our Of Counsel trademark attorney Bill Samuels) highlights the technical nature of the enforcement of trademarks. It also highlights the strength of a registered mark (the sale of only two hats, which contain a trademarked phrase, are enough to implicate interstate commerce and allow a trademarked phrase to be protected under the trademark laws). It is important for managers with questions on their trademarks and other intellectual property to discuss these matters with counsel.
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.