Financial Reform Bill May Devastate Overburdened State Securities Divisions
As many states are facing huge budget shortfalls, government services have been cutback and certain states have furloughed workers in certain divisions. In a number of states (including California) these budget cuts have affected the state securities divisions and accordingly the many state securities divisions are running dangerously lean. For example, I just recently talked with an examiner in the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities regarding a state blue sky filing for a hedge fund manager. The examiner told me that because of budget cuts and furlough days, the division will not even have a chance to review the blue sky filing we submit for five months! (Of course, they will cash the check immediately.)
This is obviously a huge issue and is only one instance of a state which does not currently have the resources to adequately perform oversight of the investment and securities activity which occur within its borders. In fact, many states currently don’t have the staff or expertise to adequately oversee the investment advisers and brokers registered with their securities division. While this is troubling, the problem is only going to get worse if the Financial Reform Bill proceeds as currently drafted.
While many have lauded the Senate bill, which will require hedge fund registration for managers with $100MM in AUM or more, an important issue has been overlooked. All investment advisers (in addition to hedge fund managers) with AUM of less than $100MM will be subject to state and not SEC registration. The $100MM threshold is an increase from the current threshold of $25MM. This means that a financial planner overseeing $90MM in assets (which was previously subject to SEC registration and periodic examination) will now be subject to regulation, generally, by the state in which that manager resides.
This means that if the financial reform bill goes through as currently drafted in the senate, the states are suddenly going to be responsible for overseeing a larger pool of managers. Even though the state will have increased responsibility, it is unlikely that state budgets will provide the securities divisions with more funding to properly oversee the new managers the divisions will be responsible for regulating. We find this troubling for investor protection reasons and for manager business continuity – that is, managers would be better off registered at the SEC level and subject to examination by SEC staff better trained (presumably) than state regulators.
We concede that the SEC has its own problems with funding and this provision allows them to focus on larger, more systemically important managers. However, we believe that states are going to be greatly burdened by the increase in jurisdictional oversight. Accordingly, we believe either Congress or the SEC provide a grandfathering provision which would allow current managers who exceed the $25MM threshold (but not the new $100MM threshold) to register or remain registered with the SEC.
Other related hedge fund law articles:
- Regulation D for Hedge Funds
- State Hedge Funds Laws Overview
- Important Information for Registered Investment Advisors
Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP is one of the top hedge fund law firms and provides comprehensive formation and regulatory support for hedge fund managers. Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.