Tag Archives: securities laws

New Hedge Fund Laws Proposed in Connecticut

State to Increase Regulation of Hedge Funds

(www.hedgefundlawblog.com)  Connecticut, home of many of the biggest hedge funds in the world, may begin regulating hedge funds in a heavy handed manner.  Recently state lawmakers have introduced three bills (Raised Bill No. 953, Raised Bill No. 6477 and Raised Bill No. 6480) which would greatly increase oversight of hedge funds which have a presence in Connecticut.   This article provides an overview of the three raised bills and provides reprints the actual text of these bills.

Raised Bill No. 953

The largest of the three bills, No. 953 has the following central features:

  • Definitions certain terms (including the term “Hedge Fund”) which are used throughout the bill.
  • Provides that, starting in 2011, hedge funds may not have individual investors  who do not have $2.5 million in “investment assets” (different than net worth)
  • Provides that, starting in 2011, hedge funds may not have institutional investors who do not have $5 million in “investment assets”
  • Provides that funds must disclose certain conflicts of interest of the manager
  • Provides that funds must disclose the existence of side letters
  • Requires an annual audit (beginning in 2010)

The above provisions would apply to those funds which have an office in Connecticut where employees regularly conduct business on behalf of the fund.   It is currently unclear whether there will be any sort of grandfathering provisions for those funds which currently have investors who do  not meet the “investment assets” threshold.   Another interesting part of the bill is that it defines a hedge fund with reference to Section 3(c)(1) and Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act.  The recently proposed Hedge Fund Transparency Act would actually eliminate these sections and add new Section 6(a)(6) and Section 6(a)(7).

Raised Bill No. 6477

The next bill is No. 6477 which would require hedge funds to be regulated by the Connecticut Banking Commission.  The bill requires hedge funds to purchase a $500 license issued by the Connecticut Banking Commissioner prior to conducting business in Connecticut.  The license would need to be purchased each year.  The bill also provides the Banking Commission with authority to adopt regulations.

This bill is interesting because it is fundamentally different from most hedge fund regulations which seek to regulate the management company through investment advisor registration.  This bill regulates the fund entity (as opposed to the management company) and does so through the power of the state to regulate banking.   Right now it looks like this bill will apply to all hedge funds, even those who do not utilize leverage.  It is not currently clear why or how the Banking Commission has jurisdiction non-banking private pools of capital, especially for those funds which do not utilize any sort of leverage.

It is also interesting to note that No. 6477 would apply regardless of the registration status of the fund’s management company.  This means that a fund could be subject to SEC oversight and may also be subject to direct oversight by the Connecticut Department of Banking (“DOB”), which means the DOB could presumably conduct audits of the fund.  Of course, this could potentially greatly increase operational costs for hedge funds with an office in Connecticut.

Raised Bill No. 6480

The final bill is No. 6480 which would require Connecticut based hedge funds with Connecticut pension fund investors to disclose detailed portfolio information to such pension funds upon request.  It goes without saying that this bill is likely to receive a considerable amount of scrutiny from the Connecticut hedge fund community.

Conclusion

The hedge fund industry continues to be a major focus of both state and federal lawmakers who are anxious to start regulating these vehicles.  Unfortunately we are witnessing a patchwork approach to regulation where there is little communication between the states and the federal lawmakers.  If other states follow Connecticut’s lead then we face the potential situation where funds in each state will need to follow state specific laws enacted by quick-to-legislate, out-of-touch lawmakers.   Efficiency in the securities markets is undercut by overlapping and unnecessary regulations – both managers and investors would be better served by a comprehensive effort to revise the securities laws at the federal and state levels.

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Raised Bill No. 953
January Session, 2009

Referred to Committee on Banks
Introduced by: (BA)

AN ACT CONCERNING HEDGE FUNDS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2009) (a) As used in this section:

(1) “Hedge fund” means any investment company, as defined in Section 3(a)(1) of the Investment Company Act of 1940, located in this state (A) that claims an exemption under Section 3(c)(1) or Section 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act of 1940; (B) whose offering of securities is exempt under the private offering safe harbor criteria in Rule 506 of Regulation D of the Securities Act; and (C) that meets any other criteria as may be established by the Banking Commissioner in regulations adopted under subsection (f) of this section. A hedge fund is located in this state if such fund has an office in Connecticut where employees regularly conduct business on behalf of the hedge fund;

(2) “Institutional investor” means an investor other than an individual investor including, but not limited to, a bank, savings and loan association, registered broker, dealer, investment company, licensed small business investment company, corporation or any other legal entity;

(3) “Investment assets” includes any security, real estate held for investment purposes, bank deposits, cash and cash equivalents, commodity interests held for investment purposes and such other forms of investment assets as may be established by the Banking Commissioner in regulations adopted under subsection (f) of this section;

(4) “Investor” means any holder of record of a class of equity security in a hedge fund;

(5) “Major litigation” means any legal proceeding in which the hedge fund is a party which if decided adversely against the hedge fund would require such fund to make material future expenditures or have a material adverse impact on the hedge fund’s financial position;

(6) “Manager” means an individual located in this state who has direct and personal responsibility for the operation and management of a hedge fund; and

(7) “Material” means, with respect to future expenditures or adverse impact on the hedge fund’s financial position, more than one per cent of the assets of the hedge fund.

(b) On or after January 1, 2011, no hedge fund shall consist of individual investors who, individually or jointly with a spouse, have less than two million five hundred thousand dollars in investment assets or institutional investors that have less than five million dollars in assets.

(c) The manager shall disclose to each investor or prospective investor in a hedge fund, not later than thirty days before any investment in the hedge fund, any financial or other interests the manager may have that conflict with or are likely to impair, the manager’s duties and responsibilities to the fund or its investors.

(d) The manager shall disclose, in writing, to each investor in a hedge fund (1) any material change in the investment strategy and philosophy of the fund and the departure of any individual employed by such fund who exercises significant control over the investment strategy or operation of the fund, (2) the existence of any side letters provided to investors in the fund, and (3) any major litigation involving the fund or governmental investigation of the fund.

(e) On January 1, 2010, and annually thereafter, the manager shall disclose, in writing, to each investor in a hedge fund (1) the fee schedule to be paid by the hedge fund including, but not limited to, management fees, brokerage fees and trading fees, and (2) a financial statement indicating the investor’s capital balance that has been audited by an independent auditing firm.

(f) The Banking Commissioner may adopt regulations, in accordance with chapter 54 of the general statutes, to implement the provisions of this section.\

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Raised Bill No. 6477
January Session, 2009

Referred to Committee on Banks
Introduced by: (BA)

AN ACT CONCERNING THE LICENSING OF HEDGE FUNDS AND PRIVATE CAPITAL FUNDS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2009) (a) No person shall establish or conduct business in this state as a hedge fund or private capital fund without a license issued by the Banking Commissioner. Applicants for such license shall apply to the Department of Banking on forms prescribed by the commissioner. Each application shall be accompanied by a fee of five hundred dollars. Such license shall be valid for one year and may be renewed upon payment of a fee of five hundred dollars and in accordance with the regulations adopted pursuant to subsection (b) of this section.

(b) The Banking Commissioner shall adopt regulations in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54 of the general statutes for purposes of this section.

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Raised Bill No. 6480
January Session, 2009

Referred to Committee on Banks
Introduced by: (BA)

AN ACT REQUIRING THE DISCLOSURE OF FINANCIAL INFORMATION TO PROSPECTIVE INVESTORS IN HEDGE FUNDS AND PRIVATE CAPITAL FUNDS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2009) Any hedge fund or private capital fund that is (1) domiciled in the state, and (2) receiving money from pension funds domiciled in the state shall disclose to each prospective pension investor in such funds, upon request, financial information including, but not limited to, detailed portfolio information relative to the assets and liabilities of such funds.

Another Ponzi Scheme

Broken Record

I’ve said it all before.  The following press release can be found here.  Please see the following articles on hedge fund and investment advisor fraud.

Continue reading

Hedge Fund Law – Summary of Hedge Fund Laws and Regulations

he following is a summary of the major laws which affect the hedge fund industry.  If you have any questions on how these laws impact hedge funds in general or your specific situation, please contact us.

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Securities Act of 1933 – the 1933 Act was enacted on May 27, 1933 as a reaction to the market crash of 1929. The overarching purpose of the act was to require that all “securities” be registered with the government (at the time the FTC). The Act provides some exemptions from this general requirement; for hedge fund managers, the most important exemption from registration is found in Section 4(2) which provides that securities will not need to be registered is they are sold in a transaction which does not involving any public offering. Continue reading

SEC Wins another Hedge Fund Fraud Case – Provides Insight to Hedge Fund Managers

Hedge fund fraud cases are important because they give some definition and life to the various investment advisor and hedge fund laws.  Much of the advice that hedge fund lawyers give to their clients is based on reasonableness and best guesses on how the securities laws will be implemented in the hedge fund context.  For many hedge fund issues there are not clear cut cases which give color to the securities laws.  One of my colleagues refers to this as the “square peg – round hole” dilemma by which he means it is hard to apply the archaic securities laws with the current state of the hedge fund and investment management industry.

When the SEC does bring cases, as practitioners we get to see how the SEC views the securities rules and how we should be advising clients. While many of the fraud cases represent completely unbelievable actions by unscrupulous people, there are still lessons which well-intentioned managers can learn from.

Specifically this case gives us an opportunity to examine five separate areas which invesment managers should be aware of:

1.    Make sure all statements in the hedge fund offering documents and collateral marketing materials is are accurate.

In this case the hedge fund offering documents contained many material misstatements including materially false and misleading statements in offering materials and newsletters about, among other things, the Funds’ holdings, performances, values and management backgrounds.  For example the complaint alledges:

Specifically, both PPMs represented that most investments made by Partners and Offshore would trade on “listed exchanges.” In truth, a majority of those funds’ investments were and are on unlisted exchanges such as the OTCBB or pink sheets. Furthermore, the Partners’ PPM stated that investors would receive yearly audited financials upon request. Partners has not obtained audited financials since the year ended 2000 and repeatedly refused at least one investor’s requests for audited financials for the year ended 2001.

2.    Make sure all appropriate disclosure relating to personnel are made.

Hedge fund attorneys will usually spend time with the manager discussing the employees of the management company and their backgrounds.  During this time the attorney will ask the manager, among other questions, whether any person who is part of the management company has been involved in any securities related offense.  In this case there were two specific items which the manager should have disclosed in the offering documents and other collateral material:

Failed to disclose that a “consultant” to the management company was enjoined, fined and also barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company for five years for his fraudulent conduct involving, among other things, misallocating to himself securities while serving as CFO and later president of a publicly traded company.

Failed to discloase a member of the fund’s board of directors was barred from associating with any broker or dealer for 9 years.

3.    Take care when going outside stated valuation policies.

Many hedge fund documents have stated valuation policies but then allow the manager to modify the valuation, in the manager’s discretion, to better reflect the true value of the securities.  However, when a manager uses this discretion, the manager should have a basis for the valuation.  Such valuation should not be based on an artificially inflated value of the asset.  To be safe managers should probably have some internal valuation policies which should be in line with generally accepted valuation standards for such assets.  I found the following paragraph from the SEC’s complaint particularly interesting (emphasis added):

II. Bogus Valuations

34. In order to obtain at least year end 2001 audited financials for Offshore, Lancer Management provided Offshore’s auditor with appraisals valuing certain of that fund’s holdings. These appraisals mirrored or closely approximated the values assigned to Offshore’s holdings by Defendants based on the manipulated closing prices at month end. These valuation reports were, however, fatally flawed and did not reflect the true values of Offshore’s holdings under the generally accepted Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice or American Society of Appraisers Business Valuation Standards. For example, the valuations were improperly based on unreliable market prices of thinly traded securities; unjustified prices of private transactions in thinly traded securities; unfounded, baseless and unrealistic projections; hypotheticals; and/or an averaging of various factors. Indeed, under accepted standards of valuing businesses, certain of the Funds’ holdings were and/or are essentially worthless.

4.    Do not engage in market manipulation.

Many of the securities in which this hedge fund invested were traded on the OTCBB.  The fund engaged in trading in these securities near valuation periods in order to artificially inflate the price of these very thinly traded securities.  Additionally, the complaint alleges many incidents of “marking the close.”  This goes without saying but a hedge fund manager should not engage in market manipulation.

5.    Always produce accurate portfolio statements.  Do not overstate earnings.  Always make sure that statements to investors are accurate.

Enough said.

While many of the examples above are so egregious they probably do not need to be listed on a “do not” list, you should make sure you do not engage in any of these activities. Additionally, if you do make some error or mistake (for example, if a valuation turns out to be incorrect or inaccurate), immediately contact your attorney to create a plan to inform investors about the incorrect or inaccurate statements.  A mistake can generally be cured, all out fraud cannot.

I have posted a full text version of the SEC’s case, SEC v. Lauer.  I have included the statement by the SEC below which can be found here.

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SEC Wins Major Hedge Fund Fraud Case Against Michael Lauer, Head of Lancer Management Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2008-225

Washington, D.C., Sept. 24, 2008—The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that a district court judge today granted its motion for summary judgment against the architect of a massive billion-dollar hedge fund fraud.

Michael Lauer of Greenwich, Conn., was found liable for violating the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws. In a 67-page order, The Honorable Kenneth A. Marra, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of Florida, found that Lauer’s fraud as head of two Connecticut-based companies – Lancer Management Group and Lancer Management Group II – that managed investors’ money and acted as hedge fund advisers was “egregious, pervasive, premeditated and resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in investors’ funds.”

Linda Chatman Thomsen, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, said, “This case highlights the SEC’s ongoing efforts to combat hedge fund fraud and our dedicated work on behalf of investors to ensure that hedge fund managers are held accountable for any unlawful conduct.”
David Nelson, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office, added, “We are particularly gratified at this decision, which resulted from several years of hard work to protect investors, starting when we successfully halted the fraud while it was still ongoing.”

Lauer raised more than $1.1 billion from investors and his fraudulent actions caused investor losses of approximately $500 million. The SEC initially won emergency temporary restraining orders and asset freezes against Lauer and his companies, which were placed under the control of a Court-appointed receiver after the SEC filed its enforcement action in 2003.

During the protracted litigation, the SEC successfully stopped Lauer from diverting or hiding millions of dollars of assets from the Court’s asset freeze.

The summary judgment order found that Lauer:

  • Materially overstated the hedge funds’ valuations for the years 1999 to 2002.
  • Manipulated the prices of seven securities that were a material portion of the funds’ portfolios from November 1999 through at least April 2003.
  • Failed to provide any basis to substantiate or explain the exorbitant valuations of the shell corporations that saturated the funds’ portfolios.
  • Hid or lied to investors about the Funds’ actual holdings by providing them with fake portfolio statements.
  • Falsely represented the funds’ holdings in newsletters.

The judge’s order entered a permanent injunction against Lauer against future violations of Sections 17(a)(1)-(3) of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act), Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act), and Sections 206(1) and (2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act). The order reserved ruling on the SEC’s claim for disgorgement with prejudgment interest against Lauer, and on the amount of a financial penalty Lauer must pay. The SEC is seeking a financial penalty and disgorgement of the more than $50 million Lauer received in ill-gotten gains from his fraudulent scheme.