Monthly Archives: November 2009

Secondary Loan Market | LSTA Conference

Trends for Distressed Debt Hedge Fund Managers

Distressed debt hedge funds often face a number of legal issues with regard to their investments.  Post-Lehman, understanding the rights and liabilities attached to the actual contracts has become paramount for managers.  The following article, contributed by Karl Cole-Frieman of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP, provides some background on a recent conference which discussed the secondary loan market.

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The LSTA Annual Conference and the Secondary Loan Market

On October 29, 2009, we attended the annual conference for the Loan Syndications and Trading Association (the “LSTA”).  Conference attendance was significantly up in 2009 from 2008, reflecting an increase in trading volume in the secondary loan market, and robust market conditions for service providers as a result of the spike in settlement on distressed documentation following Lehman’s collapse in 2008.

Secondary Loan Market Panel

Of particular interest was the panel regarding “Recent Developments in the Secondary Loan Market” moderated by Elliot Gans, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of the LSTA.  Other panelists included:

  • Linda Giannattasio, Director and Counsel in Citigroup’s Office of the General Counsel.
  • Robbin Schulsohn, Karl Cole-Frieman’s former colleague at JPMorgan Chase, where she is Executive Director and Assistant General Counsel.
  • Claire Pierce, Managing Director if Chapdelaine Credit Partners.  Claire was in-house at Bank of America for many years before joining Chapdelaine.
  • Bridget Marsh, Senior Vice President & Assistant General Counsel of the LSTA.
  • Jennifer Tallmadge, Assistant General Counsel at Bank of America.

Notably, the panel lacked a Buy Side perspective, which impacted the topics of discussion.

Buy-In/Sell-Out Provisions (“BISO”)

A relatively recent change in standard documentation for Par Trades is the inclusion in the LSTA Par/Near Par Trade Confirmation of a BISO provision for confirmations beginning February 2009.  The BISO provisions addressed the problem of counterparty risk for failure to settle a trade.   Previously, if a counterparty refused to settle a trade, there was little that the performing party could do short of litigation.  The BISO provisions, which have recently been modified, establish the circumstances under which a performing party in a Par Trade may terminate its obligations under a trade confirmation and effect a cover transaction in respect of the loans.  There is a lot of discussion about adding a BISO provision to the LSTA Distressed Trading Documents.

The panel expressed some mixed views about the success of the Par BISO provisions.  In general, the BISO provisions have been considered successful in reducing settlement times in 2009.  However, the provisions have only been in effect in a rising market, and it remains to be seen what will happen next time there is a systemic downturn in the market.  It is possible that market participants could become overwhelmed sending and responding to BISO notices.

Distressed Documents for Performing Loans

The panel also discussed the phenomenon post-Lehman of trades that settled on distressed documents for performing loans.  After the Lehman bankruptcy the loan prices fell significantly even for performing loans.  Buyers reacted by insisting that trades settle on distressed documents instead of Par documents, causing significant delays in settlements.  Generally the panel, which was dominated by Sell Side representatives, felt the market behaved irrationally in requiring distressed documents for performing loans based solely on price.  One the other hand, the distinction between par and distressed has historically been determined solely by price.  It is not clear what other objective measures loan purchasers can rely on.  From a Buy Side perspective, it might be worth spending an additional $20,000 in delayed compensation to make sure their $200,000,000 is fully protected.

Settlement Times for Loan Trades

Despite the BISO provisions in the Par confirmations, there are systemic problems causing settlement delays in 2009.  Although Linda Giannattasio indicated that 90 percent of Citibank’s par trades are settling in T+7, Elliot Gans provided raw data for 3Q 2009 that shows that problems persist.  For par trades, the average trade settled in 18 days, while the median settlement time was 11 days.  For distressed trades, the average trade settled in 45 days, while the median trades settled in 36 days.  Performing loans that trades on distressed documents post-Lehman are shifting back to Par documents, contributing to the delays.

Shift Date Rule

The LSTA plans to publish new rules for determining the “shift date,” or the date in which loans shift from Par to Distressed, and therefore must settle on distressed documents.  The existing process, which has never worked well, is that the LSTA polls dealers on the shift date.  Under the forthcoming rules, the LSTA will select the shift date and it will be binding on all parties.  Upon request, the LSTA will review trade data and other supporting material to determine the date.  Where unable to make a determination, the LSTA will assemble a Determinations Committee made up of LSTA Board members.  Elliot Gans indicated that some market participants would prefer the LSTA select a random date to the current polling system.  Nevertheless, we expect these new rules to be somewhat controversial when rolled out by the LSTA.

To find out more about the secondary loan market and other topics impacting hedge fund managers, please contact Karl Cole-Frieman of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP (www.colefrieman.com) at 415-352-2300 or [email protected]

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Other related hedge fund law articles include:

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

Series 79 Training Materials | Series 79 Study Guide

Information on Study Materials and Classes for Series 79 Exam

One of the inquires I receive most often about the Series 79 exam involves study materials.  As of right now I have not heard of any groups who have produced a study guide or other materials for this exam.  I know that both Kaplan and STC are working on producing exam study guides and other materials.  STC in particular has been moving forward very quickly with their materials.  The information below was prepared by Gary Fox of the Securities Training Corporation. and outlines the products which they will be introducing over the next couple of months.  We will continue to publish information on Series 79 products as they are released.

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FINRA began administering the Examination on Monday, November 2. As with all other FINRA Examinations, there is little or no guidance as to how topics are being tested other than the outline.

STC’s Series 79 Training Manual and Practice Examinations will be available in December. The Manual will be in printed format, the Practice Examinations will be available in online format.  We will be offering live and virtual training classes starting in January, which will give you the opportunity to complete your reading before classes begin. We strongly recommend attending the class, particularly if you have no prior experience with FINRA Examinations.

We would also like to remind you of the opt-in provisions FINRA offers with the Series 79. If you hold any one of the following registrations-Series 7, 17, 24, 37, 38, or 62, you do not need to sit for the Series 79, provided you file the appropriate opt-in forms with FINRA. You have until May 2 to take advantage of the opt-in provision. We offer training for all registrations.

If you do not hold any of these registrations, and do not want to wait until December for our training program, you could take any one of the previously mentioned examinations, opt-in to the new FINRA registration category, and bypass the need to sit for Series 79. As a reminder, STC does not offer guidance as to which registrations may be appropriate for your firm. Please contact your compliance department or legal counsel for proper registration and the procedure for opting in.

You can sign up for updates regarding our Series 79 Training Program and get more information about all of our programs and your options by visiting www.stcusa.com.

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Other related hedge fund law articles include:

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

CTA Lead List Basics

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

“Purchased Lead Lists and How to Use Them”

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

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

Lead Lists in General

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

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

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

Budget

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

Prepping an Investor Database

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

Notes About Emailing Investors from Lead Lists

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

Approaching Fund of Fund Investors

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

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

Another PPIP Closing

The following Treasury press release can be found here.  Please also see the article on earlier PPIP closings.

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Treasury Announces Additional initial closing of Legacy Securities Public Private Investment Fund

November 5, 2009
TG-357

Treasury Department Announces Additional initial closing of Legacy Securities Public Private Investment Fund

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced that RLJ Western Asset Management, LP, has completed an initial closing of a Public-Private Investment Fund (PPIF) established under the Legacy Securities Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP).  RLJ Western Asset Management, LP, is a minority-owned partnership between The RLJ Companies, LLC and Western Asset Management.

To date, seven PPIFs have completed initial closings on approximately $4.09 billion of private sector equity capital which has been matched 100 percent by Treasury, representing $8.18 billion of total equity capital.  Treasury has also provided $8.18 billion of debt capital, representing $16.36 billion of total purchasing power for all PPIFs.

Treasury expects initial closings for the remaining two PPIFs to be announced soon.  Following an initial closing, each PPIF has the opportunity to conduct additional closings over the following six months to receive matching Treasury equity and debt financing, with a total Treasury equity and debt investment in all PPIFs equal to $30 billion ($40 billion including private investor capital).  Treasury will continue to provide updates as subsequent PPIF closings occur.

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Other related hedge fund law articles include:

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

Hedge Fund Investment Adviser Insurance

E&O or D&O Insurance For Registered Investment Advisers

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk with an insurance broker whose business focuses on providing insurance to registered investment advisers and hedge fund managers.  This article is based on that conversation.

Insurance Premiums for Small Funds

For smaller funds (say less than $100 million in AUM) with no operational history, the minimum premium amount is likely to be in the $10,000 to $15,000 range for about $1 million in coverage.  Usually premiums will stay around those levels as the AUM grows, but at around $200 million in AUM the premiums may start to increase.  For those types of premiums you are usually looking at deductibles in the $25,000 range, which is going to be pretty standard for smaller groups.  Depending on the exact nature of the group’s business the deductible may end up being as high as $50,000 or $75,000.  Of course these are only ranges and the final premium and deductible amounts will be established based on the unique circumstance of the manager.

Hedge Fund Insurance Underwriters

While the insurance brokers are able to place policies for smaller managers at some of the major carriers like Chubb, many times they will need to have scripted policies which require the insurance carriers (groups like Lloyds) to write a policy specifically for the management company.  In these cases the premiums are likely to be on the higher end of the ranges  discussed above.

What does Insurance Cover?

The central reason that hedge fund investment advisers will buy insurance is to protect against potential claims by the limited partners.  Generally the insurance can be purchased as Errors & Omissions/Directors & Officers Liability (E&O/D&O).  While each policy will cover different acts, generally the insurance will cover the negligent acts of all past and present employees, offices and directors.  Independent contractors (such as sub-advisers and potentially, in certain circumstances hedge fund service providers) may or may not be covered under the policy.

If a lawsuit is initiated against the manager, after the deductible the insurance company will pick up all costs associated with the lawsuit up to the coverage maximum (in the case quoted above, this would be $1 million).  Because of the costly nature of litigation and because any litigation will likely be based on significant losses, it might be the case that the liability in the case exceeds the insurance coverage in which case the managers or employees may be liable for the remainder of the judgment or legal costs (see How Much E&O Should I Buy).  Many hedge funds will have exculpation and indemnification provisions which will protect officers and employees of the management company for acts done in good faith.

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Related articles from Hedge Fund Law Blog:

Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP runs Hedge Fund Law Blog.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund or if you have questions about your investment advisor compliance program, please contact us or call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-868-5345.

Public Comments on SEC Proposed “Pay to Play” Rules

SEC Proposed Pay to Play Rules Draw Many Comments

Earlier this year the SEC proposed so-called “pay to play” rules which would restrict SEC registered investment advisers from managing money from state and local governments under certain circumstances.  According to the SEC press release, “the measures are designed to prevent an adviser from making political contributions or hidden payments to influence their selection by government officials.” The rule would do four major things:

  1. Restricting Political Contributions
  2. Banning Solicitation of Contributions
  3. Banning Third-Party Solicitors
  4. Restricting Indirect Contributions and Solicitations

The comment period, which ran for 60 days, produced some very good points.  As a general matter most groups opposed the proposed rules for some reason or another.  Below I have gathered some of the more interesting or important points which were raised in the comments which are publicly available here.  All of the following quotes are directly from the comments of the submitters which are identified.

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Joan Hinchman – Executive Director, President and CEO, of NSCP (National Society of Compliance Professionals Inc.)

  • The practical result of the ban will be that an adviser will be economically compelled to end its relationship with a governmental entity.
  • The ban will deprive participants and beneficiaries of public funds of well qualified advisers and drive up the cost of investment advisory services due to higher compliance costs.
  • The Rule will affect at a minimum all registered investment advisers that not only advise governmental public pension funds, but also may cover investment companies in which governmental pension funds choose to invest.
  • Advisers lacking capital to hire employees to obtain government clients or the experience and sophistication to do so would be placed at a material competitive disadvantage.

These comments can be found here.

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Jeffrey M. Stern and Robert W. Schwabe – Managing Partners of Forum Capital Securities, LLC

Forum Capital Concurs wholeheartedly with those persons and entities that have commented on the Proposed Rule to date that banning investment advisers from compensating third-party placement agents for securing capital commitments from public pension fund investors would:

  • Unfairly advantage private investment firms large enough to employ an internal marketing and investor relations staff over those firms that cannot afford to employ such a staff internally;
  • Limit the universe of investment opportunities presented to public pension funds for their consideration;
  • Deprive private investment firms of the services of legitimate placement agents that have contributed to the success of many investment advisers already existing and thriving prior to the promulgation of the Proposed Rule, thereby limiting the opportunities of new private investment firms to successfully raise funds, execute their investment strategies and grow into market leading investment firms;
  • Reduce competition within the investment advisory business in general and the various alternative investment asset classes in particular; and
  • Reduce the amount of capital available to companies that rely on private investment firms for their financial support.

These comments can be found here.

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Sue Toigo – Chairman of Fitzgibbon Toigo Associates in Los Angeles California

  • Without placement agents, the ability of emerging asset management firms, the majority of which are minority- and women-owned firms, to gain the business of the large public pension funds becomes virtually impossible.
  • Under the proposed regulation, small emerging companies will find it increasingly challenging to market their investment products to pension funds.

These comments can be found here.

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William J. Zwart – BerchWood Partners, LLC

  • Emerging managers would not be able to effectively access or approach the public entity investment community without the support of the placement agent community.

These comments can be found here.

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R. Dean Kenderdine – Executive Director and Secretary to the Board of Trustees of State Retirement and Pension System of Maryland

  • The strict outright prohibition of investment management firms’ use of placement agents to implement their marketing efforts to public pension funds would result in increased costs to the investment firms and a reduction in viable investment opportunities being presented to public pension funds.
  • Public funds will not be presented with the broadest array of investment opportunities and hinder the competitiveness of the investment management marketplace.
  • Placement agents being prohibited would have an adverse impact on our return potential and increase our cost of operations.

These comments can be found here.

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Fernando Ortiz Vaamonde – Managing Partner of ProA Capital de Inversiones

  • An outright ban on placement firms would unfairly disadvantage small- and mid-size firms, many of which are unlikely to be able to recruit and retain significant in-house fund-raising capabilities.

These comments can be found here.

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Keith Breslauer – Managing Director of Patron Capital Limited

  • With the new rule, Patron would not be able to without great difficulty, expand its investor base to include public pension plans.
  • The effect of the new rule is to harm the fund raising abilities of funds like Patron and materially impact the investing opportunities of public pension plans.

These comments can be found here.

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Brian Fitzgibbon – CEO of Fitzgibbon Toigo & CO., LLC

  • Without placement agent assistance, some of the best fund managers may never get to market.
  • A ban on placement agents is unfair, irrational and harmful to Private Equity. There will always be some corrupt public officials and organizations that want to game the system.

These comments can be found here.

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B. Jack Miller – General Motors Asset Management

  • Many partnerships are too small to have their own marketing staff and rely on third party PA’s to introduce them to investors.

These comments can be found here.

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Jake Elmhirst – Global Co-Head Private Funds Group of UBS Securities, LLC

USB strongly believes that:

  • Registered placement agents play a beneficial role in the capital markets;
  • The proposed ban would be detrimental to both private equity managers and their public pension plan investors;
  • The proposed ban in lA-291O is unnecessary and overbroad, and the Commission can regulate registered broker-dealer placement agents through other means;
  • The placement agent ban in IA-2910 purports to be modeled on MSRB Rule G-38 but is in fact inconsistent with that rule and the policies supporting it; and
  • The Commission should consider alternatives to a ban on all intermediaries, including an exemption for registered broker-dealer placement agents, and increasing regulation of properly registered placement agents.

These comments can be found here.

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Thomas P. DiNapoli – State Comptroller

  • Under the proposed SEC rule, it is not clear if the investment adviser would subsequently be prohibited from earning compensation for advisory services provided to the Fund.
  • It is important that the final rule adopted by the SEC clearly articulate what behavior is prohibited in making contributions or soliciting or coordinating payments to state or local political parties.

These comments can be found here.

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Melinda Gagyor – Fulcrum Financial Inquiry, LLC

The proposed placement agent ban should be eliminated because:

  • It will devastate the placement agent business and cause severe job losses in an already troubled economy;
  • The vast majority of emerging, small and middle-market investn1ent managers will simply not survive or be forced to operate at a huge disadvantage;
  • Pension funds will see a significant reduction in their access to potential investment opportunities; and
  • Pension funds will no longer be able to use placement agents to help them pre-screen potential investment manager candidates

These comments can be found here.

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Ron S. Geffner – Partner of Sadis & Goldberg, LLP

While we strongly support the SEC’s efforts to eliminate corruption in connection with “pay to play” practices, the proposed ban on placement agents’ solicitation of government investors is overreaching and will:

  • Deprive government investors of the benefits provided by placement agents, namely access to a broader range of potential investment opportunities and assistance with due diligence efforts, and
  • Hinder smaller advisory firms in their efforts to attract government investors, as smaller firms generally have less in-house resources and rely more on the use of placement agents in soliciting government investors.

These comments can be found here.

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Fred Gortner – Managing Director of Paladin Realty Partners, LLC

  • Without quality placement agents like Triton Pacific, emerging small and mid-cap investment management firms like ours would be forced to operate at a significant and inequitable disadvantage to larger investment managers that have the financial resources to employ large, experienced teams of investor relations and in-house placement professionals.

These comments can be found here.

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Drew Maxwell

  • Your proposed ban on placement agents will unjustly penalize a huge percentage of emerging, small, minority-owned and middle-market investment managers, as these firms rely extensively on placement agents to help them.

These comments can be found here.

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Joseph M. Velli – Chairman and Chief Executive Office of BNY ConvergEx Group, LLC

  • While we believe that the general ban on third-party solicitors is unnecessary, we are concerned in particular about the vagueness of the rule’s definition of “related person”.
  • We believe it is critical for the SEC to clarify the test for control included in the definition of “related person”.

These comments can be found here.

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Frode Strand-Nielsen – Managing Partner of FSN Capital Partners A.S.

  • It would be highly challenging for us to raise capital from international in institutions unless we had the assistance of a legitimate placement agent.
  • If you take away the role of a placement agent, you will deprive firms like ours of the ability to raise capital in the United States, and you will also seriously impair the pension funds’ capacity to invest with the best private equity firms internationally.

These comments can be found here.

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Mark G. Heesen – President of National Venture Capital Association

  • It is in the interest of the entire venture capital community if firms retain the option of using placement agents for marketing to all potential investors, including public pension funds.

These comments can be found here.

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Richard H. Hurd, Jr. – President of Strategic Capital Partners

  • We know first hand the value that qualified placement agents can provide particularly to emerging, small and mid-cap investment management firms. Without such services, smaller firms have limited access to the institutional market. Likewise, pension fund will be prohibited from participating in the entrepreneurial strategies and success of companies like ours.

These comments can be found here.

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Other related hedge fund law articles:

Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP runs Hedge Fund Law Blog.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund or if you have questions about your investment advisor compliance program, please contact us or call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-868-5345.

Hedge Fund Events November 2009

The following are various hedge fund events happening this month.

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November 2

November 3 – November 5

  • Sponsors: Battea – Class Action Services, LLC,  Citco Banking Services, Custom House Fund Management, DGAM (Diversified Global Asset Management), FinAnalytica, Fractal Advisors,  Gottex Solutions Services, Riskdata, SJ Berwin, Sungard Availability Services, and TheMarkets.com
  • Event: Hedge 2009 – The World’s Finest Hedge Fund Conference
  • Location: London

November 3

November 4

November 4

November 4

November 5

November 5

  • Sponsors: Connecticut Hedge Fund Association
  • Event: Global Alpha Forum
  • Location: Greenwich, CT

November 5 – November 6

November 9 – November 10

November 9 – November 10

November 9

  • Sponsors: Real Time Systems, Thomson Reuters, Fidessa, Osaka Securities Exchange, Capital IQ, Fortis, Tora, Hedge Funds Club, Reuters Hedge World, Albourne Village, Higton Associates, Opalesque, Eureka Hedge, The Hedge Fund Journal, Hedge Fund Association, Hedge Fund Conferences, HedgeFund.Net, FIN Alternatives, HedgeCo.Net, Hedge Fund Lounge, Hedge Fund Tools, Hedge Connection, and Hedge Fund Employment
  • Event: Battle of the Quants Tokyo
  • Location: The Peninsula Hotel, Tokyo

November 10

November 10

November 12

November 12

November 12

November 14

November 17 – November 20

  • Sponsors: Peregrine Securities, Standard Bank, Nedbank Capital, Barak Fund Management, Credo, Thomson Reuters, Price Waterhouse Coopers, and Algorithmics
  • Event: Hedge Funds World Africa 2009
  • Location: Cape Town

November 18 -November 20

  • Sponsors: Tuas Power Ltd and DNV – Services for Managing Risk
  • Event: Clean Energy Expo Asia
  • Location: Singapore

November 18

  • Sponsors: Piedmont Fund Services, Schiff Hardin, LLP, Ernst & Young, Merlin, Hedge Fund Association, Mid-Atlantic Hedge Fund Association, FIN Alternatives, HedgeWeek, Hedge Fund Alert, Private Equity Insider, and HedgeFund.Net
  • Event: Alternate Investment Conference
  • Location: Washington DC

November 19

November 19

November 24 – November 25

November 26

Series 79 Opt In Period Begins

Investment Banking Representative Exam Goes Live

Today marks the first day that current Series 7 licensed representatives of BDs who engage in “investment banking activities” can opt in to the Series 79 license.  Current Series 7’s will need to talk with their compliance department who will be able to complete a Form U4 update for the rep.  According to a FINRA representative I talked with last week, the opt in process will be very easy – essentially the compliance person for the BD will go into the CRD system, check the Series 79 box for the appropriate BD reps and then submit the revised U4 to FINRA.

Reps who engage in investment banking activities should make sure that they have opted in before May 3, 2010 or they will be required to take the exam which is 5 hours long (175 multiple choice questions).

Series 79 Articles

  • Regulatory Notice 09-41 – this article reprint’s FINRA’s notice to members.  Notice includes: background and discussion on exam, discussion of the opt in period, information on the training program exception, information on requirement for principals, outline of content, registration procedures, effective date and FAQs.
  • Series 79 Content Outline – FINRA’s content outline for the new exam.  Provides an overview of the major categories and sub-categories which will be tested.
  • Series 79 Questions and Answers – in this article we address some of the questions which have been posed to us regarding the new investment banking exam.

Other related hedge fund law articles include:

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

CTA Regulatory and Compliance Discussion

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

“Compliance in a Changing Environment”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions From Audience

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

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

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

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

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

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