Tag Archives: hedge fund aml

Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act Introduced by Senator Levin

Bill Would Have Significant Impact on Private Funds

On July 12, 2011, United States Senator Carl Levin (D – Michigan) introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act of 2011 (the “Bill”). A prior version of the Bill was introduced in 2009. The Bill contains several provisions of interest to private fund managers, including provisions that:

  • Treat foreign corporations whose management and control occur primarily in the United States as U.S. domestic corporations for income tax purposes;
  • Clarify under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) when foreign financial institutions and U.S. persons must report foreign financial accounts to the IRS;
  • Treat Credit Default Swap (“CDS”) payments sent offshore from the United States as taxable U.S. source income; and
  • Require Anti-Money Laundering (“AML”) programs for hedge funds, private equity funds, and formation agents to ensure screening of offshore clients.

The Bill also authorizes the Treasury Secretary to take special measures against foreign jurisdictions or financial institutions that impeded U.S. tax enforcement as well as imposes additional disclosure requirements on multinational corporations by requiring them to include basic information on a country-by-country basis in their filings with the SEC. Notably, the Bill does not include a controversial proposal in the 2009 bill that specifically identified 34 “Offshore Secrecy Jurisdictions,” including the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands.

Foreign Corporations Treated as Domestic Corporations

Section 103 of the Bill prevents companies that are run from the United States from claiming foreign tax status if those foreign corporations

have gross assets of $50 million or more. The provisions indicate that gross assets includes “assets under management for investors, whether held directly or indirectly.” For corporations primarily holding investment assets, the management and control is treated as occurring primarily in the United States if “decisions about how to invest the assets are made in the United States.” These provisions if enacted could potentially eliminate any benefits of establishing offshore funds, which are primarily established for offshore and U.S. tax-exempt investors.

Strengthening FATCA Provisions

The U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) imposes a 30% withholding tax on U.S. persons holding offshore accounts on certain “withholdable payments” to “foreign financial institutions” which do not provide information about their U.S. accounts to the Internal Revenue Service. A “withholdable payment” is generally any U.S. source income, such as interest, dividends, rents, royalties and other fixed or determinable income (“FDAP”). Non-U.S. private funds will generally qualify as foreign financial institutions (“FFI”). In order for an offshore fund to avoid withholding, it must enter into an agreement with the U.S. Treasury to identify its U.S. investors, if there are any.

Section 102 of the Bill would expand the definition of a foreign financial institution to include entities that engage in derivative transactions. Section 102 also creates presumptions of U.S. control for purposes of certain legal proceedings for entities with accounts opened at non-FATCA institutions when those entities are established by or receive assets from U.S. persons.

Treatment of Credit Default Swaps

Existing tax laws allow CDS payments to avoid taxation if sent from the United States to persons offshore, such as an offshore hedge fund or foreign bank. Section 104 of the Bill would treat CDS payments sent offshore from the United States as taxable U.S. source income.

Anti-Money Laundering Programs for Hedge Funds

Sections 203 and 204 of the Bill would impose anti-money laundering requirements on unregistered investment companies, including hedge funds and private equity funds, and formation agents. Hedge funds would be required to establish AML programs; ascertain the identity of investors, including beneficial owners of foreign entities; and submit suspicious activity reports. Agents engaged in the business of forming corporations or other legal entities would also be required to establish AML programs.

Our Thoughts

The Bill will still need to survive a vote by both the Senate and the House and ultimately be signed by the President before becoming law.  There is likely to be some time before this Bill moves forward (especially considering the current focus on the debt ceiling) which means plenty of time for the industry to lobby against this effort.  However, the bill highlights the unpopularity of the investment management industry with certain members of Congress and it is no surprise we see proposed taxing provisions- the U.S. needs more tax revenue and investment managers are an easy group to target.  We see this every couple of years when various members of Congress propose to increase the carried interest for fund managers.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out and we will provide periodic updates on the situation.

For more information about the Bill, refer to Senator Levin’s July 12, 2011 press release.  Senator Levin has also released a summary of the bill as well as his floor statement introducing the bill.


Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP is a law firm which provides advice with respect to domestic and offshore hedge fund operations.  Bart Mallon can be reached directly at 415-868-5345; Karl Cole-Frieman can be reached at 415-352-2300.


Hedge Fund Registration Quick Facts

Hedge Fund Transparency Act of 2009 Overview

This article provides an overview of the major provisions of the Hedge Fund Transparency Act of 2009.  There are two major things that the HFTA does: (1) increases regulation of hedge funds under the Investment Company Act and (2) requires hedge funds to adopt anti-money laundering programs.

Changes under the Investment Company Act

The HFTA replaces Section 3(c)(1) of the Investment Company Act  with a new Section 6(a)(6).  Section 3(c)(7) is replaced by new Section 6(a)(6).  These new sections, which are functionally equivalent to Section 3(c)(1) and Section 3(c)(7) respectively, will exempt hedge funds from the mutual fund regulations that are found in the Investment Company Act, provided that the hedge funds comply with the provisions of Section 6(g).

Section 6(g) applies to hedge funds with assets under management (AUM) of $50 million or more.  Those hedge funds which have less than $50 million of AUM will not be subject to Section 6(g).  Section 6(g) requires:

1.  The hedge fund manager to register with the SEC.  (HFLB note: I believe the statute is not clearly written.  It seems that the hedge fund itself would be required to register with the SEC which does not make sense.)

2.  Maintain certain books and records as required by the SEC.  This requirements is likely to look like the current books and records rule of the Investment Advisors Act (Rule 204-2), for more background please see article on Investment Advisor Compliance Information.

3.  Cooperate with the SEC with regard to any request for information or examination.

4.  File the following information with the SEC on a no less than annual basis:

a.  The name and current address of each investor in the fund.

b.  The name and current address of the primary accountant and broker of the fund.

c.  An overview of the fund’s ownership structure.

d.  An overview of the fund’s affiliations, if any, with financial institutions.

e.  A statement of the fund’s terms (i.e. minimum investment).

f.  Other information including the total number of investors and the current value of the fund’s assets.

The SEC is charged with issuing forms and guidance on the implementation of the above.  Such forms and guidance must be issued within 180 days from the enactment of the HFTA.

New AML Requirements

The HFTA requires the Secretary of the Treasury (in consultations with the Chairman of the SEC and the Chairman of the CFTC) to establish AML requirements for hedge funds.  The bill sets aggressive timelines for drafting and implementation of the rules.

Hedge Fund Transparency Act Analysis

In the current politically charged environment it is not surprising that a hedge fund regulation law is being contemplated.  What is interesting, however, is the way that Grassley and Levin have chosen to regulate hedge funds.  The prior hedge fund registration rule, promulgated by the SEC, was enacted under the Investment Advisors Act – in essence requiring hedge fund managers (and not the hedge fund itself) to register as Investment Advisors with the SEC.  The Hedge Fund Transparency Act does not follow this path – instead, it regulates hedge funds under the Investment Company Act by modifying the current exemptions which hedge funds enjoy under the act.  In essence the changes subject hedge funds to a kind of light version of the mutual fund regulations.  In this way Congress is going past previous registration by regulating the hedge fund vehicle, as well as the hedge fund management company through the registration requirement.

While it is no surprise that regulation and registration has reached the hedge fund industry, one aspect of the bill is surprising.  The act would require hedge funds to disclose the names and addresses of each investor in the fund.  These names and addresses would be made available to the general public through an electronic searchable format to be developed by the SEC.  Hedge fund investors are notoriously protective of their privacy and I cannot imagine that there will not be pushback by the hedge fund industry on this point.

Another consequence of investment advisor registration is that hedge fund managers (if not currently regulated by the state in which their business resides) may be subject to certain state investment advisory rules including a “notice” filing requirement.  Depending on the nature of the management company’s business, some employees may need to register as investment advisor representatives at the state level which generally requires an employee to have passed the Series 65 exam.  We will keep you updated on this possibility as we learn more about the HFTA over time.


Please contact us if you have any questions releted to this post or registering your management company as an investment advisor with the SEC.  Other related posts include: