Monthly Archives: September 2008

Hedge Fund Formation Legal Fees

Question: How much does it cost to establish a hedge fund?

Answer: The costs of starting a hedge fund can vary considerably depending on the manager and the manager’s circumstances.  A start up hedge fund manager will need to consider the hedge fund start up costs which will include legal costs, administration costs and set up fees, bank fees, prime brokerage fees, rent, etc.  This article will detail hedge fund legal fees.

Hedge Fund Formation Legal Fees

The central legal fees for a start up hedge fund manager are the costs associated with preparing the offering documents for the hedge fund.  Most law firms who provide these services will charge on a flat fee basis, depending on the novelty and scope of the project.  The cost breakdown is, generally, as follows:

Large brand name New York based law firm: $35,000 – $75,000

Midsize law firm with known hedge fund practice: $25,000-$45,000

Small or boutique hedge fund law firm: $15,000-$30,000

The above are very large fee ranges, but for managers with very basic hedge fund strategies (say a long-short large cap investment strategy) you are looking at the lower end of the fee range.  If the strategy is more esoteric or if there are many structural issues (especially liquidity and valuation issues), then the costs will be more.  Additionally, if the strategy has certain ERISA or tax issues then the cost is going to be more.

The costs above generally do not include filing fees for entity incorporation, fees for investment advisor registration, or any blue sky filing fees.

Please note that you may find groups out there which provide hedge fund offering documents for lower prices.  As when selecting any attorney, price should not be the only determining factor.  There are also offering document software sources out there which purport to create offering documents for your fund for under $5,000 – do not use such services.  The legal documents provided by hedge fund lawyers are designed to protect you as the manager and any off the shelf solution is not going to be able to provide the customized legal advice you will need to be properly protected.  I have personally seen some of these documents and they are woefully inadequate.

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

Overview of hedge fund short sale rules and likely fallout from recent events

I received a request today to talk about hedge fund short sales and the likely fallout from the recent market disruptions and the failed bailout bill.

Short Sale Ban

The SEC has banned short sales on 800 individual securities.  These securities are generally within the financial services industry.  The ban on shorting these securities ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on Oct. 2, 2008. The SEC may extend the ban beyond this date if it deems an extension necessary in the public interest and for the protection of investors, but the SEC will not extend the ban for more than 30 calendar days in total duration.  (The SEC press release can be found here.)

Short Sale Disclosure Requirements

For hedge fund managers who are subject to 13F filings (i.e. those managers who manage $100mm or more), such managers will need to disclose their short positions by filing Form SH with the SEC.  More information on this can be found at 13F questions and answers or at the SEC’s website here. Please click here to view form-sh

Likely Fallout

There is so much uncertainty in the air right now.  Congress is having trouble trying to find some way to unfreeze the credit markets and money managers are just trying to find a way to stay afloat.  Additionally, as I mentioned this morning, investors are getting worried and are pulling cash out of hedge funds.  They way I see it, there are many scenarios which are likely to play out in the next couple of weeks and months:

1. Hedge fund redemptions – many investors are scared and are looking for safety right now.  While some managers are doing phenomenal in this wildly votile market, most are not and have not been doing well for much of the year.  I think that we’ll see in the coming days stories of large amounts of redemptions.

2. Hedge fund closures – as I discussed previously, because of the problems with the hedge fund high watermark, you are going to see money managers face the difficult decision of whether or not to keep their fund running.  Undoubtedly many managers will choose to close down their funds because of lack of capital (from redemptions and/or losses) or because they are too far under to make any money in the coming year.

3. Hedge fund regulation – while hedge funds have not faced the front page criticisms that the large investment banks and other financial institutions have seen over the past few weeks, the lawmakers have already began calling for investigations into the cause of this mess.  These investigations are likely to focus on systemic risks and how hedge funds may have contributed to the current market crisis.  As these reports begin spilling out over the next few weeks and months, I believe hedge funds will be a prime target and you are likely hear lawmakers facing re-election calling for more regulation.  [Please also note, Congress has indicated that it is more than willing to require more regulation of the financial markets as evidenced by its willingness to allow the CFTC to begin regulating the retail spot forex market.  For more information, please see this note from the CFTC. ]

4. Hedge fund start ups – over the next couple of months as funds begin to close down, successful traders will decide to go and start up their own hedge funds.  For these traders the transition to hedge fund manager will be difficult, but they will be able to be successful if they can find investors willing to invest in a start up hedge fund manager.  These traders will need to talk with a hedge fund attorney in order to get started with the hedge fund formation process.

5. Hedge fund due diligence will increasehedge fund due diligence is one of the areas that is set to grow quickly.  I expect that investors, especially smaller institutional investors, will require greater risk management disclosure from hedge funds.  A simple manager back ground check is no longer going to be sufficient.

6. Hedge fund consolidations – while every now and again I will hear something about hedge fund consolidation, it never really seems to happen in any sort of large scale way.  This year may be different as smaller firms with decent track record decide to merge with more established funds with greater risk management procedures.

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

NFA sends request for financials to Commodity Hedge Funds

Hedge fund managers which are licensed as commodity pool operators (CPOs) should have received an email from the NFA which requests certain financial information. While not disclosed on their website, the NFA sent a request on Friday to all of the CPO Members. Each member will need to make a filing which represents (i) the commodity pool has not suffered a drawdown of 25% or more since December 31, 2007 or (ii) the commodity pool’s actual drawdown numbers. CPOs will have until October 8 to make the filing. If you are a CPO and have not received this email request, you should contact the NFA immediately. If you did receive the request and have any questions, you should contact the NFA and/or your attorney immediately.

The NFA contact persons are:

Mary McHenry, Senior Manager, Compliance, ([email protected], or (312) 781-1420)

Tracey Hunt, Senior Manager, Compliance, ([email protected] or (312) 781-1284)

The request for information does not apply to pools which are exempt under CFTC Rule 4.13. For the whole email, please see below.

September 26, 2008

Important Request for CPOs

Due to current events in the global financial markets, NFA is requesting CPO Members to provide information by October 8, 2008 regarding the financial status of their pools. However, this request does not apply to any CFTC 4.13 exempt pools.

To see a list of the active pools NFA has on file for your firm, click on the following link and access the EasyFile system: (However, if you currently operate a pool that may be subject to this request, but it is not included in the EasyFile listing, you must notify one of the individuals listed at the end of this message.)

NFA is requesting certain financial information as of 9/30/2008 for each pool listed that has experienced a drawdown of 25% or more since December 31, 2007. For further instructions on completing the filing, see the information below regarding How to File.

For any pool that did not sustain such a drawdown, you must attest to this fact by deleting the filing request from the listing. For further instructions on deleting the request, see the information below under How to Delete a Request.

How to File: For each pool that has experienced a drawdown of 25% or more since December 31, 2007, you must use the EasyFile system to submit the pool’s key financial balances and Schedule of Investments, as well as a written representation on disclosure and withdrawal restrictions.

The key financial balances consist of the same summary categories you enter for year-end statements. The Schedule of Investments is an itemized listing of all investments that individually exceed 5% of NAV. NFA has created a standardized spreadsheet for this filing, which is available at Use this link to access the spreadsheet and then perform a “save as” to save the blank spreadsheet to your local computer. Once you complete the spreadsheet, upload it to NFA via the EasyFile system. Additionally, you must submit any written documentation your firm has provided to participants relating to any additional disclosure, including whether the firm has placed any restrictions on redemptions and, if so, a description of these restrictions. You should save this written documentation as a PDF file and then upload it to the EasyFile system as well.

How to Delete a Request: For any pool that does not meet the 25% threshold, you must delete the filing request in the EasyFile system. Detailed instructions on how to delete a filing request are included in the guide entitled “Help for Special 9/30/2008 Filing” on the initial Pool Index screen in the EasyFile system.
BY DELETING THE REQUEST, YOU ARE ATTESTING THAT THIS POOL DID NOT EXPERIENCE A DRAWDOWN OF 25% OR MORE SINCE DECEMBER 31, 2007. In addition, NFA will maintain a record of the deletion, as well as the user who performed it.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation. If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact one of the following individuals:

Mary McHenry, Senior Manager, Compliance, ([email protected], or (312) 781-1420) Tracey Hunt, Senior Manager, Compliance, ([email protected] or (312) 781-1284)


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

Hedge Fund Redemptions and the Gate Provision

It is no secret that many funds are hurting this year and that many investors are getting ready to, or have, pulled money from many hedge funds.  According to a New York Times article this morning, these redemptions are likely to cause managers to sell securities which may in turn further depress prices.  While the time period for hedge fund-of-funds redemptions has likely passed (FOFs usually require 95 days prior notice for redemption), redemption notices for normal hedge funds are due by tomorrow (assuming a 90-day notice period and end of year or quarter redemptions).

If your fund is feeling the pressure of quite a few redemptions, there are a couple of standard safeguards which are usually built into the hedge fund offering documents.  These provisions include the hedge fund gate provision and a general catch-all provision.  In general, the gate allows redemption requests to be reduced to a certain percentage of the fund’s total assets during any redemption period.  For example, if the fund has a gate of 15% and investors request redemptions which equal 20% of a fund’s NAV, then all redemption requests will be reduced pro rata until only 15% of the redemption requests are met.  The catch all provision allows a hedge fund manager to halt redemptions if certain catastrophic market events take place.  Depending on how the hedge fund offering documents are drafted, the current market situation may or may not apply and you should discuss this with your lawyer.

How to handle invoking a gate provision

In the next few days, managers will be getting a good idea of how much of the fund will be redeemed.  If a decision is made to invoke the gate provision, the manager should discuss this option with his attorney.   The attorney will help the manager decide the best course of action with regard to reducing the redemption amount, which will probably include writing a letter of explanation to the investors.  While each fund’s situation is different, that letter should probably include the expected amount of the reduction as well as a description of the authority (in the offering documents) for the reduction.  Additionally, you should also invite questions directly – it is during times like these when investors get scared and then start talking to their own attorneys.  It is much better to be candid and upfront than to receive a nasty letter from an attorney in the future.

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

SEC ends CSE program for investment banks

Last week Goldman and Merril announced that they were going to convert to bank holding companies.  A good article on  the conversion, including questions and answers, can be found here. An interesting consequence of the change is that the SEC’s Consolidated Supervised Entities (CSE) program is no longer necessary.

The CSE was a unique program where the SEC would supervise the very large investment banking firms from the inside. While the program was voluntary, it was designed to identify potential issues in the devolpmental stage.  However, because the SEC really had no authority to recieve certain reports from the investment banks, the program could only do so much and as we’ve seen, the program failed to protect against the meltdown of both Bear and Lehman.

Chairman Cox will definately take some heat for what the CSE program did not accomplish (see this article), however, it is not presently clear whether he deserves the blame.  As his statement below indicates, the SEC had no explicit governmental oversignt of the major investment banks which would allow them to really act as a regulator for these entities.   What is scary about this is that, if congress listens to Cox, there may be a rush toward over-regulation – Cox is already calling for the regulation of the currently unregulated CDS market. If there is more regulation in the future it is unclear what governmental agency will be in charge of such regulation as the SEC is already overburdened and underfunded.

The statement by Cox below can be found here.

Chairman Cox Announces End of Consolidated Supervised Entities Program

Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2008 — Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox today announced a decision by the Division of Trading and Markets to end the Consolidated Supervised Entities (CSE) program, created in 2004 as a way for global investment bank conglomerates that lack a supervisor under law to voluntarily submit to regulation. Chairman Cox also described the agency’s plans for enhancing SEC oversight of the broker-dealer subsidiaries of bank holding companies regulated by the Federal Reserve, based on the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the SEC and the Fed.

Chairman Cox made the following statement:

The last six months have made it abundantly clear that voluntary regulation does not work. When Congress passed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, it created a significant regulatory gap by failing to give to the SEC or any agency the authority to regulate large investment bank holding companies, like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearns.

Because of the lack of explicit statutory authority for the Commission to require these investment bank holding companies to report their capital, maintain liquidity, or submit to leverage requirements, the Commission in 2004 created a voluntary program, the Consolidated Supervised Entities program, in an effort to fill this regulatory gap.

As I have reported to the Congress multiple times in recent months, the CSE program was fundamentally flawed from the beginning, because investment banks could opt in or out of supervision voluntarily. The fact that investment bank holding companies could withdraw from this voluntary supervision at their discretion diminished the perceived mandate of the CSE program, and weakened its effectiveness.

The Inspector General of the SEC today released a report on the CSE program’s supervision of Bear Stearns, and that report validates and echoes the concerns I have expressed to Congress. The report’s major findings are ultimately derivative of the lack of specific legal authority for the SEC or any other agency to act as the regulator of these large investment bank holding companies.

With each of the major investment banks that had been part of the CSE program being reconstituted within a bank holding company, they will all be subject to statutory supervision by the Federal Reserve. Under the Bank Holding Company Act, the Federal Reserve has robust statutory authority to impose and enforce supervisory requirements on those entities. Thus, there is not currently a regulatory gap in this area.

The CSE program within the Division of Trading and Markets will now be ending.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding between the SEC and the Federal Reserve that was executed in July of this year, we will continue to work closely with the Fed, but focused even more clearly on our statutory obligation to regulate the broker-dealer subsidiaries of the banking conglomerates. The information from the bank holding company level that the SEC will continue to receive under the MOU will strengthen our ability to protect the customers of the broker-dealers and the integrity of the broker-dealer firms.

The Inspector General’s office also made 26 specific recommendations to improve the CSE program, which are comprehensive and worthy of support. Although the CSE program is ending, we will look closely at the applicability of those recommendations to other areas of the Commission’s work and move to aggressively implement them.

As we learned from the CSE experience, it is critical that Congress ensure there are no similar major gaps in our regulatory framework. Unfortunately, as I reported to Congress this week, a massive hole remains: the approximately $60 trillion credit default swap (CDS) market, which is regulated by no agency of government. Neither the SEC nor any regulator has authority even to require minimum disclosure. I urge Congress to take swift action to address this.

Finally, I would like to commend the extraordinary efforts of the SEC’s diligent staff, who for so many months have been working around the clock in the current market turmoil. Their dedication and commitment in behalf of investors and the American people are unequaled.


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

Hedge Fund 13F Filings

Many people talk about watching hedge funds through their 13F filings. A 13F filing is a quarterly report filed with the SEC by “institutional investment managers.” The reports include the name and number of the securities owned by the hedge fund. The term “institutional investment manager” means those managers who exercise discretion over $100 million or more in Section 13(f) securities. Typically a hedge fund attorney will help the manager file Form 13F.

A summary of Form 13F requirements from the SEC is below and can be found on the SEC’s website here.

Form 13F—Reports Filed by Institutional Investment Managers

Institutional investment managers who exercise investment discretion over $100 million or more in Section 13(f) securities must report their holdings on Form 13F with the SEC.

In general, an institutional investment manager is: (1) an entity that invests in, or buys and sells, securities for its own account; or (2) a person or an entity that exercises investment discretion over the account of any other person or entity. Institutional investment managers can include investment advisers, banks, insurance companies, broker-dealers, pension funds, and corporations. Section 13(f) securities generally include equity securities that trade on an exchange or are quoted on the Nasdaq National Market, some equity options and warrants, shares of closed-end investment companies, and some convertible debt securities. The shares of open-end investment companies (i.e., mutual funds) are not Section 13(f) securities.

Form 13F requires disclosure of the names of institutional investment managers, the names of the securities they manage and the class of securities, the CUSIP number, the number of shares owned, and the total market value of each security.

You can search for and retrieve Form 13F filings using the SEC’s EDGAR database. To find the filings of a particular money manager, use the “Companies & Other Filers” search under “General Purpose Searches” and enter the money manager’s name. To see all recently filed 13Fs, use the “Latest Filings” search function and enter “13F” in the “Form Type” box.

The securities that institutional investment managers must report on Form 13F are found on what is known as the Official List of Section 13(f) Securities. The Official List is published quarterly and is available for free on the SEC’s website. It is not available in paper copy format or on computer disk.

You can learn more about Form 13F filings, as well as obtain a copy of the Form and instructions, and the applicable statutory and regulatory provisions, by reading Frequently Asked Questions About Form 13F prepared by the SEC’s Division of Investment Management.


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

Citibank to hedge funds – no bank accounts for you…

A client just informed me that Citibank will not consider opening a bank account for a hedge fund as of today.  Evidently Citibank’s compliance department thinks that being associated with hedge funds, even if it is merely through a simple bank account, is not wise in this climate.  I will be discussing this issue with some of my other banking contacts to see if this is the case at other institutions and will report back on this story.


Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to start a hedge fund.

CFTC Fines Hedge Funds for Failure to File Annual Report with NFA

Certain hedge funds which trade futures and/or commodities as part of their investment program are deemed to be commodity pools and the hedge fund management company must register with the NFA as a commodity pool operator (CPO).  Registered CPOs must file annual reports with the NFA and such reports must be sent to investors in the fund.  Generally this will need to be done within either 45 or 90 days after the end of the fund’s fiscal year.  If a CPO needs extra time to file the report, it can request an extension from the CFTC.

In the cases below, each of the CPOs had filed for and were granted extensions.  Even with these extensions, however, they were not able to file their reports.  The NFA evidently takes such an infraction very seriously as the fines were stiff – ranging from $75,000 to $135,000.  Such a potential monetary penalty should make CPOs especially eager to file the appropriate reports on time.

CFTC Rule 4.22 includes the following major provisions.

  • must distribute an Annual Report to each participant in each pool that it operates, and must electronically submit a copy of the Report and key financial balances from the Report to the National Futures Association pursuant to the electronic filing procedures of the National Futures Association
  • Annual Report must be sent to pool participants within 45 calendar days after the end of the fiscal year
  • financial statements in the Annual Report must be presented and computed in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles consistently applied and must be certified by an independent public accountant

If you are a hedge fund manager registered as a CPO you should make sure you understand this and other CFTC rules.  If you have any questions on the rules or other CPO requirements, including possible CPO exemptions, you should have a conversation with your attorney so that you know what needs to be filed and when so that you can avoid harsh fines like the ones below.

The CFTC release below can be found here.

Release: 5555-08
For Release: September 24, 2008

CFTC Sanctions Four Registered Commodity Pool Operators for Failing to File Timely Commodity Pool Reports with the National Futures Association

Mansur Capital Corp., Persistent Edge Management, LLC, Stillwater Capital Partners, Inc., and Stillwater Capital Partners, LLC Ordered to Pay a Total of $330,000 in Civil Monetary Penalties

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today simultaneously filed and settled charges against four registered commodity pool operators (CPOs), charging them with failing to distribute to investors and file with the National Futures Association (NFA) one or more of their respective commodity pools’ annual reports in a timely manner. Mansur Capital Corporation of Chicago, Persistent Edge Management, LLC of San Francisco, California, and Stillwater Capital Partners, Inc. and Stillwater Capital Partners, LLC, both of New York, were charged in the CFTC action.

The CFTC orders require the CPOs to pay civil monetary penalties in the following amounts: Mansur, $75,000; Persistent Edge, $120,000; and Stillwater I and Stillwater II to jointly and severally pay $135,000.

Under CFTC regulations, CPOs are required to file annual reports with the NFA and distribute them to each pool participant. This must be done within a prescribed period after the close of their pools’ fiscal years. An annual report is designed to “provide [pool] participants with the information necessary to assess the overall trading performance and financial condition of the pool.” (See Commodity Pool Operators and Commodity Trading Advisors, Final Rules, 44 Fed. Reg. 1918 [CFTC Jan. 8, 1979], re the adoption of Rule 4.22.) According to the CFTC orders, without timely reporting, the CFTC’s goal of providing pool participants with complete and necessary data is hampered.

The CFTC orders find that each of the four CPOs operated one or more commodity pools, including pools that operated as funds-of-funds. While each of the CPOs had obtained extensions of the prescribed deadlines for various pools and reporting years, each failed to timely comply with its obligations, in violation of CFTC regulations.

The following CFTC Division of Enforcement staff are responsible for this case: Camille M. Arnold, Alan I. Edelman, Ava M. Gould, Susan J. Gradman, James H. Holl, III, Diane M. Romaniuk, Scott R. Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, Gretchen Lowe, and Richard B. Wagner.


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

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.


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


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.

SEC brings fraud charges against investment advisor in connection with hedge fund investments

Investment advisors who recommend hedge fund investments should be very careful to disclose all material agreements between the advisor and the hedge fund and hedge fund manager.  In the case below an investment advisor recommend hedge fund investments to its clients without disclosing to such clients that the advisor was receiving a part of the performance fees that were paid to the hedge fund manager.

Advisors should also take note to the following two issues:

SEC jurisdiction over state registered investment advisors

Even though the advisor was registered with the California Securities Regulation Division and not the SEC, the SEC was able to take action under Section 206 (the anti-fraud provisions) of the Investment Advisers Act.  Additionally the SEC was able to bring charges against the investment advisor under the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”).  This shows that the SEC’s has quite a few methods to assert jurisdiction over non-SEC registered advisors.

Potential violations of broker registration requirements?

Although I have not yet had a chance to read the unreleased complaint, I am wondering why the SEC did not charge this group with violating the broker registration requirements.  I think there is an argument that the investment advisory firm was acting as a broker.  I checked FINRA’s broker check and the firm did not come up as a registered broker.

Section 15(a)(1) of the Exchange Act generally makes it unlawful for any broker or dealer to use the mails (or any other means of interstate commerce, such as the telephone, facsimiles, or the Internet) to “effect any transactions in, or to induce or attempt to induce the purchase or sale of, any security” unless that broker or dealer is registered with the Commission in accordance with Section 15(b) of the Exchange Act.

The release below can be found here.

Litigation Release No. 20737 / September 24, 2008

Securities and Exchange Commission v. WealthWise, LLC and Jeffrey A. Forrest, United States District Court for the Central District of California, Civil Action No. CV 08-06278 GAF (SSx)

SEC Charges California Investment Adviser With Committing Fraud While Recommending Hedge Fund to Clients

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based investment adviser and its owner with fraud for failing to disclose a material conflict of interest when recommending that their clients invest in a hedge fund that made undisclosed subprime and other high-risk investments.

The SEC alleges that WealthWise LLC and its principal Jeffrey A. Forrest recommended that more than 60 of their clients invest approximately $40 million in Apex Equity Options Fund, a hedge fund managed by Salt Lake City-based Thompson Consulting, Inc. (TCI). According to the SEC’s complaint, WealthWise and Forrest failed to disclose a side agreement in which WealthWise received a portion of the performance fee that Apex paid TCI for all WealthWise assets invested in the hedge fund. From April 2005 to September 2007, WealthWise received more than $350,000 in performance fees from TCI. Apex collapsed in August 2007, and WealthWise clients lost nearly all of the money they invested.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in Los Angeles, charges WealthWise and Forrest with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The SEC seeks an injunction, an accounting of the total amount of performance fees WealthWise received from TCI, disgorgement of those fees, and financial penalties.

On March 4, 2008, the SEC filed a civil action in federal district court in Salt Lake City against TCI and three of its principals in connection with the collapse of Apex and another hedge fund.