Tag Archives: investment adviser compliance

NASAA Examination of IA Compliance Deficiencies

Examination Reveals Compliance Focus Areas

NASAA, the lobbying body of the various state securities divisions, recently released a set of examination findings which describe the common compliance deficiency areas for IA firms registered with the state securities commissions.  The exams, which were completed by state administrators, showcase a number of compliance issues for both registered investment advisers and fund managers.  According to the NASAA press release:

Examinations of 825 investment advisers conducted between January 1, 2011 and June 30, 2011 uncovered 3,543 deficiencies in 13 compliance areas, compared to 1,887 deficiencies in 13 compliance areas identified in a similar 2009 coordinated examination of 458 investment advisers.

Below we have summarized the findings released in the NASAA 2011 Examinations Findings (.ppt).

Deficiency Categories

Below are the categories which were covered, along with the percentages of advisers with at least one deficiency in such category:

  • Registration (59.9%)
  • Books and Records (45%)
  • Unethical Business Practices (36.8%)
  • Supervisory/Compliance (30.2%)
  • Advertising (21.6%)
  • Privacy (21.2%)
  • Financials (19.8%)
  • Fees (19.4%)
  • Custody (12.6%)
  • Investment Activities (3.9%)
  • Solicitors
  • Pooled Investment Vehicles (Hedge Fund)
  • Performance Reporting

Discussion of Deficiencies

There are a number of slides devoted to providing more granular information on the various deficiencies.  Below are some of my thoughts when I read through these deficiencies:

  • Properly completing ADV, including proper descriptions (AUM, fees, business overview, disclosures) and making sure there are no inconsistencies; unregistered IAs were not a large part of the deficiencies.
  • Investment adviser books and records are what you would expect – a number of different items were not properly kept as required by regulations. Surprisingly, it seems that many IAs do not keep the suitability information on their clients as required.
  • Under unethical practices, it seems that many of the deficiencies were likely caused by careless drafting of contract documents. Non-contract unethical business practices revolved around advertising and conflicts of the IA.
  • One interesting note for Supervisory/Compliance is that a large number of IAs did not follow their own internal procedures. This might be worse than having inadequate procedures – if your compliance manual says you will do something, you should make sure it is being done.
  • Financials might be what you would expect – issues with respect to net worth of the IA, bond issues and inaccurate financials.
  • Advertising deficiencies focused on website issues. I would expect this to increase in the future as more IAs establish websites in the future. Additionally, social media deficiencies are likely to increase in the future as more firms use these tools to advertise their business. [Note: while the managed futures industry has different regulations, the concepts of social media regulation for the futures industry can be applied to securities compliance.]
  • Custody is probably the single most misunderstood concept for IA firms. Most people view custody to be having physical possession of a client’s cash or securities.  However, if you directly deduct a fee from a client account (even if this is done by the custodian, i.e. Schwab) then in most states the IA is deemed to have “custody” of the account and must adhere to the custody requirements of the state.
  • It is interesting to note that with respect to investment activities the following were some common deficiencies: preferential treatment (I assume, without disclosure), aggregate trades, and soft dollars.
  • Solicitors have become a more prevalent issue over the last few months as more fund managers (who are RIAs) offer separately managed account programs. [Note: we will have more articles forthcoming on this issue shortly.] For solicitor issues the big items were undisclosed solicitors and issues with disclosure. Also, the agreement between the IA and the solicitor was a common deficiency.
  • Hedge fund managers with no separately managed account business had many more deficiencies than IA only firms. Deficiencies with respect to hedge funds related to valuation, cross-trading and preferential treatment (again, we assume, without disclosure).

IA Compliance Best Practices

As a result of the report, the NASAA identified the following as best practices for IAs:

  • Review and revise Form ADV and disclosure brochure annually to reflect current and accurate information.
  • Review and update all contracts.
  • Prepare and maintain all required records, including financial records.
  • Back-up electronic data and protect records.
  • Document all forwarded checks.
  • Prepare and maintain client profiles.
  • Prepare a written compliance and supervisory procedures manual relevant to the type of business to include business continuity plan.
  • Prepare and distribute a privacy policy initially and annually.
  • Keep accurate financials. File timely with the jurisdiction.
  • Maintain surety bond if required.
  • Calculate and document fees correctly in accordance with contracts and ADV.
  • Review all advertisements, including website and performance advertising, for accuracy.
  • Implement appropriate custody safeguards, if applicable.
  • Review solicitor agreements, disclosure, and delivery procedures.

Conclusion

It is clear that NASAA is trying to be more of an influence on how the state administrators conduct examinations and the focus areas of those examinations.  While it is helpful for NASAA to release investment adviser compliance best practices, it would be more useful if they released more robust compliance materials such as sample compliance manuals/ policies and clearer guidance on state interpretations of regulations.  As Congress and the SEC determine whether to establish an investment adviser SRO, we are likely to see NASAA take a larger thought leadership role.  In any event, investment advisers and hedge fund managers should begin to start thinking about registration and implementing robust compliance policies and procedures which address all parts of state or SEC IA registration regulations.

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Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides legal advice to hedge fund start ups and well as established fund complexes.  Bart Mallon can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

Compliance Update for California Hedge Funds – Presentation

As part of the Hedge Fund Networking Summit Webcast Series, Bart Mallon of Mallon P.C. led an hour long presentation on compliance matters for California based hedge fund managers.  The presentation covered the following topics:

  • New SEC and CA Hedge Fund Registration Requirements
  • Registration Overview & Major Issues
  • Compliance Overview
  • Discussion of Other Current Regulatory Issues

There were of number of questions asked by the audience regarding many of the new compliance requirements for registered managers.  We have had good experience with the following groups:

If you attended the event and have follow up generic propecia online pharmacy questions, please feel free to contact us and we will try to get back to you as soon as possible.  The full powerpoint can be downloaded here: CAHF Powerpoint (April 2011) Final

Many thanks to Ron Niemaszyk of Patke & Associates for moderating the event.

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Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides investment adviser registration & compliance services to hedge fund managers.  For more information, please call Bart Mallon at 415-868-5345.

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California Investment Advisor Annual Compliance Reminder | 2010

(www.hedgefundlawblog.com)

State registered investment advisory firms usually have annual compliance requirements.  The following discusses the major issues for investment advisors (both hedge fund and separately managed account managers) who are registered in California.  In general, there is (i) an annual updating requirement and (ii) an annual financial filing requirement.

Annual ADV Updating Amendment

Registered investment advisers will need to update Form ADV (including Part II and Schedule F) on an annual basis.  For California registered investment advisers the annual update is due within 90 days after the end of the firm’s fiscal year end (which will normally end on December 31).  In general the advisor should review the entire ADV, Part II and Schedule F to make sure everything is accurate as of the date of filing.  The advisor may want to make this filing itself (usually the chief compliance officer of the firm will complete) or the advisor may want to have its law firm or compliance firm complete the update for them.

Note: in additional to annual update, each advisor will need to make sure that certain information is updated on a continuous basis.  If the information contained in Part I, Items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 13A, 13B, 14A and 14B of Form ADV, Form U-4 or any representation or undertaking contained in any affidavit filed with the state securities division, changes in any respect, or if the information contained in Part I, Items 9 and 10 and all items of Part II of Form ADV changes in any material respect, an amendment shall be filed promptly with the state securities division. Such amendment must be filed in writing no more than ten business days after the registrant has knowledge of the circumstances requiring such notification.

Annual Financial Filing Requirement

California registered advisors will also need to submit annual financial reports to the California Securities Regulation Division.  Such advisors must submit the following to the division:

The above items should be sent directly to the California Securities Regulation Division at:

California Financial Services Division
1515 K Street
Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95814

Note: in general both hedge fund managers and separately managed account advisors (who directly debit fees from client brokerage accounts) will be deemed to have “custody” of client assets and would need to make sure that, among other requirements, the balance sheet above is audited.  Most advisors, however, will institute certain procedures (including a gatekeeper arrangement) which will allow them to submit unaudited financials.  If you have questions, please contact your lawyer or compliance professional.

Other Compliance Issues

In California, like most of the states, there are a number of items that advisors will need to do a continuous basis.  The most important is probably to properly maintain their books and records.  California has also provided an overview of important issues for California investment advisor and has also provided an overview of the post-effective requirements.

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Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to start an investment advisory business.  Other related hedge fund law articles include:

Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP runs Hedge Fund Law Blog and has written most all of the articles which appear on this website.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund. Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP will also help state based Investment Advisors to register with their state securities division.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund or an investment advisor looking to register, please call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-868-5345.

Hedge Funds and Insider Trading after Galleon

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

High Profile Case Highlights Issues for Hedge Fund Managers to Consider

Insider trading is now an operational issue for hedge fund managers.  The high profile insider trading case involving RR and the Galleon hedge fund has put the spotlight directly on hedge funds again and has also sparked a debate of sorts on the subject.  Given the potential severity of penalties for insider trading, it is surprising that we still periodically hear about such cases, but nevertheless it is something that is always going to be there – human nature is not going to change.

As such hedge fund managers need to be prepared to deal with this issue internally (through their compliance procedures) and also will need to be able to communicate how they have addressed this issue to both the regulators and institutional investors.  While managers always need to be vigilant in their enforcement of compliance policies and procedures, during this time of heightened insider trading awareness, managers need to be even more vigilant about protecting themselves.  As the Galleon liquidation too vividly shows, a lapse in operational oversight can and will take down an entire organization.

Insider Trading Overview and Penalties

We have discussed insider trading before, but as a general matter insider trading refers to the practice of trading securities based on material, non-public information.  Whether information is material depends on case law.  In general information will be material if “there is a substantial likelihood that a reasonable shareholder would consider it important” in making an investment decision (see TSC Industries, Inc. v. Northway, Inc., 426 U.S. 438, 449 (1976)).  Information is non-public if it has not been disseminated in a manner making it available to investors generally. An insider is generally defined as officers, directors and employees of a company but it can also refer to a company’s business associates in certain circumstances (i.e. attorneys, accountants, consultants, and banks, and the employees of such organizations).  Additionally, persons not considered to be insiders may nevertheless be charged with insider trading if they received tips from insiders – such persons generally are referred to as tippees and the insider is generally referred to as the tipper.  [HFLB note: more information on insider trading generally can be found in the discussion of Regulation FD on the SEC website.]

The penalties for insider trading are potentially harsh – censures, cease and desist orders, fines, suspension and/or revocation of securities licenses are all potential penalties.  Depending on the severity of the insider trading there may be criminal sanctions in addition to the listed civil penalties.  Securities professionals (or other business professionals like an attorney or accountant) may jeopardize their ability to work in their industry if they are caught engaging in insider trading which, for most people, would be a large enough deterrent to engage in such activity.

Addressing Compliance Inside the Firm

Insider trading is usually addressed in the firm’s compliance policies and procedures.  Indeed, Section 204A of the Investment Adviser Act of 1940 requires SEC registered investment advisers to maintainpolicies and procedures to detect against insider trading.

Usually such policies and procedures forbid employees from trading on material non-public information (as well as “tipping” others about material non-public information).  Additionally, employees typically are required to disclose any non-public material information they receive to the chief compliance officer (“CCO”) of the firm.  The employee is generally prohibited from discussing the matter with anyone inside or outside of the firm.  The policies and procedures may require the CCO to take some sort of action on the matter.  There are a number of different ways that the CCO can handle the situation including ordering a prohibition on trading in the security (including in options, rights and warrants on the security).  The CCO may also initiate a review of the personal trading accounts of firm employees.  Usually when the CCO is informed of such information the CCO would contact outside counsel to discuss the next course of action.

Dealing with Regulators

While many large hedge fund managers are registered as investment advisors with the SEC, many still remain unregistered in reliance on the exemption provided by Section 203(b)(3).  With the Private Fund Investment Advisers Registration Act likely to be passed within the next year, managers with a certain amount of AUM (either $100 million or $150 million as it now stands) will be forced to register with the SEC.  Of course, this means that such managers will be subject to examination by the SEC and insider trading will be one of the first issues that a manager will likely deal with in an examination.

As we discussed in an earlier insider trading article, the SEC has unabashedly proclaimed war against insider trading and they will be aggressively pursuing any leads which may implicate managers.

Some compliance professionals believe that the SEC comes in with a view that the manager is guilty until proven innocent.  While I do not necessarily subscribe to this blanket viewpoint, I do believe that managers, as a best practice, should be able to show the SEC the steps they have taken to ensure that compliance with insider trading prohibitions is a top priority of the firm.  The firm and CCO should be prepared to describe their policies and structures that are in place to deal with this issue.

Institutional Standpoint

Potentially more important than how a firm deals with the SEC, is how a firm describes their internal compliance procedures to institutional investors.  The question then becomes, how are institutional investors going to address this risk with regard to the managers they allocate to – what will change?

Right now it appears a bit unclear.  Over the past week I have talked with a number of different groups who are involved hedge fund compliance, hedge fund consulting, and hedge fund due diligence and I seem to get different answers.  Some groups think that institutional investors will be focusing on this issue (as many managers know, one of the important issues for institutional investors is the avoidance of “headline risk”); other groups seem to think that this is an issue that institutional groups are not going to focus on because there are other aspects of a manager’s investment program and operations which deserve more attention.

We tend to agree more with the second opinion, but we still believe that robust insider trading compliance policies and procedures are vital to the long term success of any asset management company.  We also encourage groups to discuss their current procedures with their compliance consultant or hedge fund attorney.

Outsourcing and Technology solutions

Many large managers have implemented compliance programs which have technology solutions designed to track employee trading.  Presumably there will be technology programs developed to address this concern for manager.  Although I do not currently know of any specific outsourced or technology solutions which address this issue, I anticipate discussing this in greater depth in the future – perhaps there is some data warehousing solution.  [HFLB note: please contact us if you would like to discuss such a solution with us.]

Final Thoughts

The Galleon insider trading case could not have happened at a worse time for the hedge fund industry which is trying to put its best face forward as Congress determines its future regulatory fate.  However, increased awareness of this issue will force managers to address it from an operational standpoint which will only help these managers down the road.  While the full effect of this case will not be understood for a while, in the short term it is likely to cost managers in terms of time and cost to review and implement increased operational awareness and procedures.

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Other related hedge fund law articles:

Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP runs the Hedge Fund Law Blog and the Series 79 exam website.  He can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

Section 204A | Investment Advisers Act of 1940

Section 204A — Prevention of Misuse of Nonpublic Information

Every investment adviser subject to section 204 shall establish, maintain, and enforce written policies and procedures reasonably designed, taking into consideration the nature of such investment adviser’s business, to prevent the misuse in violation of this Act or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, or the rules or regulations thereunder, of material, nonpublic information by such investment adviser or any person associated with such investment adviser. The Commission, as it deems necessary or appropriate in the public interest or for the protection of investors, shall adopt rules or regulations to require specific policies or procedures reasonably designed to prevent misuse in violation of this Act or the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (or the rules or regulations thereunder) of material, nonpublic information.

Hedge Fund Regulation IT Solutions

Technology Solutions for Registered Hedge Fund Managers

http://www.hedgefundlawblog.com

It is the final quarter of this year’s political season and it has become clear that the earlier clamor for hedge fund registration has been overshadowed by larger political issues – namely health care legislation and the cap and trade bill.  Recent events, however, have shown that the registration issue is not dead and the venture capital industry has been able to potentially secure an exemption from the registration provisions. Even though we don’t know where regulation will take us in the next 6 to 18 months, it is likely that many hedge fund managers will need to institute compliance and IT programs as a result of forthcoming laws and regulations.

The article below, submitted by Meyer Ben-Reuven, CEO of Chelsea Technologies, details some issues which managers will need to be ready to handle once legislation and regulations go into effect.  State registered investment advisors should take note as they may already be required (under state law) to maintain such compliance programs.

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How is President Obama’s New Hedge Fund Regulation Plan affecting you?
By Meyer Ben-Reuven, CEO Chelsea Technologies

The challenging question Hedge Fund Managers should ask themselves is what should they be doing to be compliant with President Obama’s Hedge Fund Regulation Plan?  There are many questions and many tasks to accomplish, but most important is to understand the main points of the plan, what needs to be done and what are the costs associated.  In this paper I present you with a summary of the President’s plan and what a Chief Compliance Officer needs to face in conjunction with the IT department to be compliant with regulations.  Costs are important, but I will keep them away from this paper.

Obama’s New Hedge Fund Regulation Plan

In June 2009, President Obama presented a proposal for new regulations that affect Hedge Funds and fund managers.  The most important part of this new regulation will be to require Hedge Fund, Private Equity, and VC Fund Managers to register with the SEC as investment advisors.

Although it is a proposal, all fund managers will have to start thinking about the re-registration and the process to keep the fund compliant.

The plan’s 5 main goals are:

  1. Promote robust supervision and regulation of financial firms.
  2. Establish comprehensive supervision and regulation of financial markets.
  3. Propose comprehensive regulation of all OTC derivatives.
  4. Protect customers and investors from financial abuse.
  5. Raise international regulatory standards and improve international cooperation.

The idea is to require advisers to report financial information on their fund and its management and thus have the ability to assess whether the fund poses a threat to the stability of the financial system and at the same time strengthen investor protection.

The specific goals regarding hedge funds are as follows:

  • Data collection
  • SEC should conduct regular, periodic examinations of hedge funds
  • Reporting AUM and other fund metrics to the SEC
  • SEC would have ability to assess whether the fund or fund family is so large, highly leveraged, or interconnected that it poses a threat to financial stability

How will IT Departments have to help keep the funds within regulation rules?

As of February 2006, Hedge Fund Advisors were obliged to comply with SEC Rule 203(b)(3)-2 requiring registration under the Investment Advisor Act.   Under these rules, the Hedge Funds were advised to retain all internal and external email and IM business communications.  In June 2006, the Goldstein ruling against the SEC pushed several funds to de-register.  With the failure of the financial system since the end of 2007, the new administration has been poised to regulate the industry more than ever.

What needs to be done?

  1. Take a look at all the ways communications are conducted in the fund
  2. What are the devices used to communicate
  3. Always be on the lookout for new technologies

Afterwards, insure you have control over the different communication methods.  As stated, all electronic communication in and out of the fund has to be retained for future review.  This means that if it cannot be controlled and retained, it must be prohibited.

All internal rules have to be specified in IT policies and procedures, otherwise no one can be held accountable.

The following is how data needs to be archived for SEC purpose audits:

  1. Incoming/Outgoing Data must be kept in its original form
  2. Data has to be easily retrievable and searchable
  3. Data has to have a date and time stamp
  4. Data has to be retained in the main office for first 2 years
  5. Data has to be retained for 5 years
  6. Data has to be put into tamper proof media (meaning non-rewritable and non-erasable)
  7. Data has to be stored in a secondary backup location (preferably away from the same grid)
  8. Be able to produce data promptly (within hours)
  9. Be able to provide data in its original format in either view or print form
  10. Implement annual review of the system

It is highly recommended that data be tested for integrity including testing retrieval and searching, as well as accuracy.  The test should be conducted on a yearly basis, but better if on a more frequent basis.
Although the IT department is in charge of conducting the process, it is ultimately the Chief Compliance Officer who is responsible for this area.  The Chief Compliance Officer needs to dictate the test frequency as well as to advise everyone in the firm about the policies and make sure everyone understands the consequences of failure to comply.

All these internal policies have to be in writing and any violations have to be documented and fixed.  The regular testing and reviews have to be documented and be ready for presentation in case of an audit.

NOTE: TAPE BACKUP IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR MESSAGE ARCHIVING

What are the different communication venues that exist and can be controlled and thus archived?

  1. Email and IM from Exchange
  2. Email and IM from Bloomberg and Reuters
  3. Blackberry archiving of Pin-to-Pin , SMS, Call Detail logs
  4. E-Faxes
  5. Blogs
  6. Chat Rooms
  7. Message Boards
  8. Twitter
  9. Facebook
  10. LinkedIn

Since all of the above require certain technologies and software for archiving and retaining, you have to make an effort to comply with the regulations or otherwise prohibit the usage of such technologies in the work place.

How do you implement compliance?

There are two schools of thought to achieve compliance:

  1. Build an in-house system
  2. Use a third party system

The in-house system is more complex and often requires a larger upfront investment to build and maintain.  Keep in mind you will have to have the following:

  1. Servers, storage, and software
  2. Backup Servers, storage, and software in a location out of the main location grid
  3. Replication system
  4. Maintain both the main and backup location

The responsibility and costs can escalate, but depending on the size of the firm, it might be the most cost efficient.

The third party systems, which have built an infrastructure that is scalable, keep on growing as more clients join their list.  The time to implement is a fraction of building an in-house system.  Depending on the third party provider, there are several ways of getting the data:

  1. Have the data arrive to the email server and from there delivered to the third party provider
  2. Have the data arrive to the third party provider and then to the email server

Both methods of delivery have issues of their own.  The first method requires you to be diligent about monitoring the email flow and ensure data is routed to the archiving provider – the responsibility is shifted completely to you.  The second method, where the provider requires the email to be routed through their system before it arrives to your server, usually poses a different challenge where emails might get delayed at the provider.

If you decide on any of the above systems, you should try to utilize an external anti-spam solution to keep your storage usage to a minimum as well as to make sure that non-account emails do not reach your email server.  These measures will keep all spam from being part of your retention data.

References and information used from the following sources: Global Relay, Zantaz, LiveOffice, NextPage, Hedge Fund Law Blog

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Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP runs Hedge Fund Law Blog.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund or if you are a current hedge fund manager with questions about ERISA, please contact us or call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-868-5345.  Other related hedge fund law articles include:

IA Compliance Fall Conference 2009

Over the past few months I have written extensively about the new regulatory environment and the likelihood that many hedge fund managers will need to register with the SEC within the next year or so (assuming that Congress passes one of many proposed registration bills).  Anticipating this requirement, my team and I at Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP have been preparing for registrations and as part of that preparation I am attending the IA Compliance Fall Conference today at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel.

The conferne is designed to provide lawyers and compliance professionals with more context on how firms need to deal with compliance issues in this hype-sensitive environment.  Today’s conference hosts a number of renowned speakers, including top SEC officials:

  • John Walsh – SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspectrions and Examinations
  • Gene Gohlke – OCIE’s Associate Director
  • Andrew Donohue – director of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management

There are a number of items on the adgenda which I am particularly excited to hear about and discuss with my colleagues including some of the hot-button issues and recent reports from SEC examinations.  I will be taking notes throughout the event and will be writing blog posts about the conference in the coming days.  I will also be providing more information on Mallon P.C.’s investment adviser registration and compliance services for hedge fund managers.

Other attendees include representatives from: The Carlyle Group; Westover Capital Advisors, LLC; Oppenheimer Funds, Inc; State Street; Penbrook Management, LLC; Trilogy Capital; Bridgewater Associates; AXA Investment Managers; Strategic Value Partners, LLC; Pershing Square Capital Management; Guggenheim Advisors, LLC; Lone Pine Capital; Parkway Advisors; Vicis Capital LLC; The Swathmore Group; Abbott Capital Management, LLC; Redwood Investments; Tocqueville Asset Management; RNK Capital LLC among others.

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Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to start a hedge fund. Other related hedge fund law articles include:

Bart Mallon, Esq. runs hedge fund law blog and has written most all of the articles which appear on this website.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund, or if you have questions about investment adviser registration with the SEC or state securities commission, please call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-296-8510.