Tag Archives: FSC

Hedge Funds in the BVI – new requirement to submit annual information

The British Virigin Islands (BVI) is a popular jurisdiction for many offshore hedge funds to be located.  The BVI is known to have good financial oversight and relatively reasonable offshore hedge fund formation fees.  Over the past year the BVI Financial Services Commission (FSC) has become more involved in hedge fund oversight as political pressure increases.  It is expected that the BVI’s Mutual Funds Law will undergo changes within the next 6 months to a year because of this political pressure.

In addition, on September 9 the FSC surprisingly announced that BVI hedge funds (known as “mutual funds” in the BVI) will need to submit a yearly Annual Return to the FSC which provides information about the fund to the FSC.  This is a new requirement for all BVI based hedge funds.  Before this year the FSC had a voluntary mutual funds survey which requested information similar to the information requested in the Annual Return.  Certain closed end funds (generally private equity funds established in the BVI) will not need to submit the Annual Return.

BVI Annual Return Requirement

The items a fund will need to submit are:

–    Basic information on the fund and its service providers, including the registered agent
–    Financial information including:

Beginning NAV
Total subscriptions
Total redemptions
Net income/ net loss
Dividends/ distributions
Ending NAV
Year end gross assets

–    General description of the fund’s asset allocation (but not individual positions)

The Annual Return will need to be submitted to the FSC by June 30 of 2009.  Funds which do not submit the Annual Return by that date may face an enforcement action.

A sample Annual Return can be found here: sample-annual-return

What this means for offshore hedge funds

With regard to this new requirement, current BVI funds are going to need to complete the Annual Return.  While the Annual Return will not be a huge resource drain, it will take some time to complete.  Generally most of the questions can be answered fairly quickly by the hedge fund manager or by an assistant.  Some of the information may require input from the hedge fund administrator and potentially the hedge fund attorney as well.

In the future, this seems to be the first step towards greater scrutiny and disclosure requirements from offshore hedge fund jurisdictions.  However, it is unclear whether this will affect the number of start up funds which will be based in the BVI as the intrusion is relatively mild.  However, it may mean that other offshore jurisdictions such as Nevis, Guernsey and Dubai become more popular in the future.

Please see guidance from here from Maples and Calder, an offshore law firm: BVI Annual Return Requirement

Offshore hedge fund director requirements

Two of the most popular offshore hedge fund jurisdictions are the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands. In another post I will detail the requirements for registration or recognition with these jurisdictions, but for the purposes of this article it is enough to point out that both jurisdictions will generaly require each hedge fund entity (in the case of a master feeder structure there would normally be two offshore entities) to have two directors.

Cayman Islands Director Requirements

In the Cayman there are two types of funds – (i) Cayman Islands Monetary Authority (“CIMA”) registered funds and CIMA non-registered funds. CIMA registration is required if a hedge fund is open-ended (allows investors the option to redeem) and has 16 or more investors. CIMA registration is not required if a hedge fund is closed-edned (does not allow investor the option to redeem) or if a hedge fund has 15 or fewer investors who have the right to appoint or remove directors.

For CIMA registered funds, there must be at least 2 directors who must be individuals. For non-CIMA registered funds, there must be at least 1 director who must be an individual. The individual directors do need not to be a Cayman resident.

BVI “four eyes” policy

In the BVI most hedge funds are deemed to be mutual funds. Because they are mutual funds, they will need to be “recognized” as such with the BVI’s Financial Services Comission (“FSC”).

Pursuant to BVI laws and statutes all companies (including hedge funds) are only required to have 1 director. However the FSC has just recently instituted a new “four eyes” policy which effectively requires that all funds have two directors (the “four eyes” policy has been applied for some time in relation to BVI-incorporated investment managers; however, its application to BVI based funds is a new development). This policy is not codified and it seems to be enforced only on a case by case basis. We are recommending to our clients that they name 2 directors because the liklihood of the FSC requiring 2 directors prior to recognition is quite high.

In the BVI a hedge fund can name a company to be a director.

Offshore Nominee Directors

Not all hedge funds will not have two persons who wish to serve as directors of the fund. The reasons may vary from unwanted perceptions to unwanted responsibilities. For whatever reason in these instances the hedge fund will need to name another person (or a company, for the BVI) which will serve as a director for the fund.

In such cases an offshore hedge fund manager may want to think about using a “nominee” director. There are companies in both the BVI and the Cayman Islands which can provide nominee director services, usually on an annual basis, for a fee. While these fees will depend on a number of factors, including the percieved risk of the fund and the manager, you will probably be looking at anywhere from US $5,000-$10,000 per year.

When searching for a nominee director we recommend shopping around as there are going to be groups which naturally feel more and less comfortable with your program. Some nominees will require some sort of involvement in the high-level affairs of the fund. Some nominees will also ask to be at least be co-signatories on any bank accounts opened in the name of the fund. These precautions are understandable as the nominee services are typically provided by services companies (registered office, registered agent, etc) who could potentially lose their license if something happens with the fund.

Directors from non-US jurisdictions

Please note with all directors the issue of perception. There have been recent instances of large brokerage firms refusing to establish brokerage accounts for some hedge funds because the directors (or even a director) were from states known to support terrorism. It will be a good idea to think about selecting a director who is from country which supports or sponsors terrorism. I do not think that this is a wide-spread practice; however, if a brokerage firm does not allow for the account formation because a new director will need to be appointed, you are going to end up delaying your launch.

Confidentiallity of Director information

In the BVI, the details of directors and shareholders of BVI funds is strictly confidential and not a matter of public record. Funds can if they wish elect to file a register or a document which details directors &/or shareholders but this is not common practice. Obviously the details of directors and shareholders may come into the public domian when they are distributed to third parties (e.g. administrators or auditors) but many times these third parties have previously agreed to keep also such information strictly confidential. Any information held by a fund’s registered agent, likewise, will be kept confidential unless required to be disclosed by order of the FSC (believing it to be in the best interests of the jurisdiction – this is not common and generally requires substantial proof of criminal activity), or a BVI Court.

Offshore Director due diligence requirements

Becoming a director of a company which acts as a hedge fund is not difficult but there are many due diligence requirements for all directors of these companies. While all jurisdictions will differ, the BVI and the Caymans will typically require the following documents from each director:

  • List of director details – name, address, etc
  • Copy of director utility bill – can include: gas, power, electric, water, television/cable, phone/internet; showing home address; notarized
  • Copy of director passport – showing a clear picture of the director, notarized
  • Director bank reference – should include length of relationship; may need to include average amount of assets
  • Director professional reference – should be from a lawyer or accountant who has had a previous professional relationship with the director
  • List of owners/shareholders of director (if an entity)
  • Copy of director formation documents (if an entity)
  • Other items as requested by the registered agent

Please contact us if you have any questions on any of the above or would like to inquire about a nominee director or establishing an offshore hedge fund.

BVI FSC may request additional information for hedge fund “recognition”

For offshore hedge funds one of the central questions during the formation process is which jurisdiction will you choose? While there are many possibilities, there are two jurisidictions which a vast majority of the hedge funds will choose – either the BVI or Cayman Islands. Because both offer the same liability protections and tax favored status, the question comes down to cost and regulation.

Generally Cayman is considered to be the “premier” jurisdiction with many of the blue chip hedge funds domiciled here. Cayman also had a bit of a first-mover status and has just announced that it had it’s 10,000th fund. Cayman is also the more expensive jurisdiction.

Because of these facts many funds, including many start-up hedge funds, will choose to go with the BVI. One issue with the BVI is that the fund “recogition” process is much more capricious. Where Cayman offers funds a very dependable timeline to fund start ups, the BVI’s “recognition” process can be delayed by the BVI’s Financial Services Commission (“FSC”), which has the authority to request certain information for BVI professional funds. In fact, the FSC is free to request any additional information as they please. (Note: this is also true during the entity formation stage, which is distinct from the fund formation stage.) In the past they have asked for more detailed information on the past job duties of Directors. They have also requested future confirmations on certain items in the offering documents related to a manager’s past performance. They have also requested information related to the service providers.

As a result of the requests they have made, the final “recognition” of certain funds has been delayed. However, this will not happen on a routine basis (it has happened, with my previous clients, maybe once every 10 funds) and normally the information request and subsequent recognition is handled relatively quickly so that there has really been no delay of a manager’s launch date.

When deciding on a jurisdiction, this is something to be aware of, but it should not be dispositive on your decision one way or another.