Tag Archives: NFA

Recent Issues with NFA Annual Questionnaire

As we discussed in an earlier post on NFA Annual Questionnaire, NFA Member Firms are required to complete the questionnaire on an annual basis.  The information helps the NFA in a variety of ways and the NFA encourages members to update their questionnaire on a regular basis, although firms are only required to complete it, at a minimum, on the anniversary of their NFA Membership date.

Number of Half-turn Trades Issue

One issue that we are seeing clients deal with is the last question which applies to commodity trading advisors (CTAs) and commodity pool operators (CPOs).   The question is as follows:

For CTAs and CPOs only: Provide the following information for accounts held by CTAs and/or CPOs:

How many total domestic futures and options trades (half-turns) did your firm place directly with an FCM in the last 12 months? Please include trades for customer, commodity pool (both regulated pools and pools exempt pursuant to CFTC Part 4 Regulations) and proprietary accounts, but do not include trades that were actually placed by another money manager on behalf of any of these accounts.

The issue is that the question asks for the total amount of half-turn trades were completed over the last 12 months.  This could be an absolutely huge number and it would be onerous for a CTA or a CPO to go back and actually count each trade (unless the broker/clearing firm was keeping track for the CTA or CPO).  Accordingly, I have now talked with the NFA twice about this issue and they have confirmed that an approximate or estimated number is sufficient for the purposes of the questionnaire.  While such informal guidance is not binding, it seems like the NFA wants to have a general idea of the trading volumes and is not going to “ding” a manager if the exact number is not determined.

Issues for Forex CTAs and Forex CPOs

Even before the forex registration regulations were proposed, many forex-only managers registered with the CFTC as either forex CTAs or CPOs.  I asked the NFA compliance department how such managers should answer the above question as would not make sense in the spot forex context.  The NFA said that such managers should answer the above question by placing a 0 (zero) in the appropriate box (assuming there was only spot forex trading).

If you have other questions or issues when you are completing the annual questionnaire, you can either call the NFA or your compliance professional.  Also, please let us know what your issues are so we can update this article accordingly.


Other related NFA compliance articles include:

Bart Mallon, Esq. runs the Hedge Fund Law Blog and provides hedge fund information and manager registration services through Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP He can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

CFTC Provides Annual Guidance to CPOs

Annual Report Guidance for Commodity Pool Operators

In a recent release, which we have reprinted in full below, the CFTC reminds CPOs of their annual reporting requirements under Regulation 4.22.  The release includes a link to the 2010 CPO Annual Guidance Letter.  In general the letter provides another reminder to CPOs to file their annual reports with the NFA and provide a copy to the investors in the pool.  I have outlined below the major parts of the letter.

General Issues to consider

  • Commodity pool annual reports must be distributed to pool participants within 90 calendar days of the pool’s fiscal year end.  For most funds this means by March 31, 2010.
  • Commodity pool annual reports must be filed with the NFA within 90 clendar days of the pool’s fiscal year end.  For most funds this means by March 31, 2010.
  • All documents must be filed electronically through the NFA’s filing system.
  • Extensions are available in certain circumstances.

Other Issues

For groups which have different or more complex structures, additional considerations need to be addressed.  Such groups include:

  • Master/feeder commodity pool structures
  • Commodity pool fund of funds
  • Offshore commodity pools
  • CPOs claiming an exemption under Regulation 4.13
  • Reports of commodity pools which are liquidating
  • Commodity pools established as a series structure (such as a series LLC)
  • Commodity pools which invest in non-exchange traded instruments may have additional issues

Moreover, the letter includes references to the recently amended CPO relations.

If a CPO will not be able to file on time, the CPO should file for an extension.  “Automatic” extensions can be granted to CPOs to fund of fund structures.  If you have questions with making a filing, please feel free to contact Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP. The following press release can be found here.


CFTC’s Division of Clearing and Intermediary Oversight Provides Annual Report Guidance to Commodity Pool Operators

Washington, DC — The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Division of Clearing and Intermediary Oversight has issued its annual guidance letter to registered commodity pool operators (CPOs). The letter is intended to assist CPOs and their public accountants in complying with the Commission’s regulations on the preparation and filing of commodity pool annual financial reports.

The highlights contained in this year’s letter include:

  • Recent amendments to Commission regulations pertaining to various reporting issues;
  • Annual report filing procedures and due dates;
  • Special considerations that apply to filings made for Master/Feeder and Fund of Funds structures;
  • Use of International Financial Reporting Standards in lieu of U.S. generally accepted accounting principles;
  • Reporting requirements for pools in liquidation;
  • Reporting requirements for series funds with limitation of liability among the different series; and
  • Various accounting developments that may impact report preparation.

For more information on CPO Annual Guidance Letter 2009, please see the Related Documents link.

Copies of the letter also may be obtained by contacting the Commission’s Office of the Secretariat, Three Lafayette Centre, 1155 21st Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20581, (202) 418-5100.


Other related compliance articles for CPOs and CTAs include:

Bart Mallon, Esq. runs the Hedge Fund Law Blog.  He can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

CTA and CPO Foreign Language Disclosure Documents

Translating a Disclosure Document to Another Language is Fine

NFA Member Firms are required to have their disclosure documents reviewed by the NFA generally before such firms can distribute the documents to potential investors.  One issue which sometimes arises is when the firm (generally either a CTA or CPO) has potential clients/investors who are non-U.S. citizens and do not speak English.  In these cases the question arises as to whether the CTA or CPO can translate their disclosure documents into another language.

I just recently spoke with a compliance representative at the NFA and the answer I received is: Yes, the CTA or CPO can have the document translated into another language.  The big issue obviously is that the NFA Member Firm must be able to represent to the NFA that the translation is exact and the firm must generally make the translated copy available to the NFA during examination.  Also, there are two central ways which firms will typically approch this situation:

Disclose to NFA – some firms will proactively disclose to the NFA that they have translated a disclosure document into another language.  This can be done in a number of ways including: (i) providing a note to the NFA during the document submission or (ii) calling the NFA directly and talking with a representative or compliance manager.

Do not disclose to the NFA – some firms will not disclose to the NFA that a document has been translated.  According to my phone conversation, this is fine, but the Member Firm will need to have a copy of the translated document and verify to the NFA that the translated version is exactly the same as the English language based version.

NFA Compliance Issues

Compliance.  CTAs and CPOs must remember that, as Member Firms, there are ongoing recordkeeping responsibilities.  Accordingly, the firm should have policies and procedures in place that address the issue of having translated disclosure documents.  Additionally, firms should remember that disclosure documents are usually good for nine (9) months and must be updated thereafter (or if there are any material changes to the document which must be disclosed) – this means that the translated copy should also be appropriately updated.

Forex.  These same rules will also apply to Forex CTAs and Forex CPOs.  The CFTC just recently announced that forex managers will need to register with the CFTC and become NFA member firms.  When forex managers register then, this will apply to them and they will need to follow these rules as well.


Other articles applicable to NFA member firms include:

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

NFA Provides Social Networking Compliance Guidance

Member Firms Subject to Increased Oversight & Compliance Responsibilities

In early December the National Futures Association (“NFA”) submitted two proposed amendments proposed amendments to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) regarding NFA Member Firms and their use of the internet and social media networks.  The amendments focus on communications by firms over the internet in various capacities including blogs, chat rooms, forums, and various social media websites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc). While these amendments will increase the oversight responsibilities for Member Firms, it makes sense for the NFA to alert members to their responsibilities with regard to these growing forms of communication.  This post describes the two amendments, application to forex managers, the NFA social media podcast and the impact these amendments are likely to have on all NFA Member firms.  The NFA’s Notice to Members on this issue is also reprinted at the end of this post.

Overview of Amendments

Amendment to Rule 2-29

Rule 2-29 was broadened by the following changes (underline and strikethrough):

(h) Radio and Television Advertisements.

No Member shall use or directly benefit from any radio or television advertisement or any other audio or video advertisement distributed through media accessible by the public if the advertisement that makes any specific trading recommendation or refers to or describes the extent of any profit obtained in the past that can be achieved in the future unless the Member submits the advertisement to NFA’s Promotional Material Review Team for its review and approval at least 10 days prior to first use or such shorter period as NFA may allow in particular circumstances.

By broadening the rule the NFA effectively is requiring Member Firms to make sure all audio and video internet advertising (i.e. podcasts, youtube, voiceover presentations, etc) be reviewed prior to use.  Effectively groups who have used these channels to market their services will need to (i) have all such media reviewed by the NFA or (ii) take all media off of the internet.

Interpretive Notice: Internet Communication & Social Media

This interpretive notice is not so much an amendment of an existing Interpretive Notice as it is simply the creation of a new notice.  The full Interpretive Notice can be found in the proposed amendments link above, but I have also reprinted some of the more interesting parts of the notice:

The form of communication does not change the obligations of Members and Associates who host or participate in these groups, and electronic communications must comply with Compliance Rules 2-9, 2-29, 2-36, and 2-39.


Therefore, content generated by the Member or Associate is subject to the requirements of NFA Compliance Rules 2-29, 2-36, or 2-39. The same is true for futures, options, or forex content written by a Member or Associate and posted on a third party’s site.


Members should have policies regarding employee conduct. These policies could require employees to notify the employer if they participate in any on-line trading or financial communities and provide screen names so that the employer can monitor employees’ posts periodically. Alternatively, the policy could simply prohibit participation in such communities. The Member must, of course, take reasonable steps to enforce whatever policies it adopts.


The issue becomes more complicated for user-generated comments responding to a Member or Associate’s blog and for Members and Associates who host chat rooms or forums. What is their responsibility for posts from customers or others over whom the Member or Associate has no direct control? When inadequately monitored, social networking sites may contain misleading information, lure customers into trades that they would not normally make, or be used in an attempt to manipulate prices.

The biggest take-away is that the NFA is expecting NFA Members to integrate a social media awareness into their current compliance program.  Accordingly, compliance programs (especially those parts dealing with Compliance Rules 2-9, 2-29, 2-36, and 2-39) will need to be updated appropriately to reflect the requirements of the Interpretive Notice.  Member Firms will also need to vigillantly follow their new/revised compliance procedures and monitor their employees – it will be very easy for the NFA to do simple internet searches and potentially “catch” firms who do not adequately comply the Interpretive Release.

Issues for Forex Managers

Forex is specifically discussed throughout the Interpretive Notice so it is clear that the NFA’s intent is to make sure that forex communications, especially, are subject to monitoring and oversight.  Currently this rule applies to those firms who are NFA Member Firms (currently registered) and, in the future, after the forex registration rules have been adopted, it will apply to all registered forex firms (CTAs, CPOs, IBs and FDMs/FCMs).  The NFA has made it clear before that forex managers/traders are in the NFA’s regulatory cross-hairs and this Interpretive Notice reinforces that impression.

NFA Podcast on Social Media

The NFA has produced a podcast titled “Use and Supervision of Online Social Networking Communication” and can be found with other NFA produced podcasts.  This podcast is helpful to provide Member Firms with some helpful guidance on some of the major issues to consider when developing a social media policy to comply with the Interpretive Notice and Rule amendment.  There are a number of considerations that firms will need to make and the social media policy must be tailored to the business practices of the firm.  There are likely to be a number of hot button issues which will develop regarding Member Firms and this policy, especially concerning oversight of associated persons.  The podcast also hints at one of the big compliance issues which managers should be aware of – the reposting of content.  Because internet posts are routinely “scraped” from the original website and reposted on other websites, Member Firms should be aware of this issue and create appropriate procedures.

It is recommended that compliance officers listen to this podcast when developing their social media compliance policies and procedures.

Impact on NFA Members

I view these amendments as relatively major – because so many firms use the internet for marketing and because prior NFA rules essentially did not address the issues of social networks there has been a bit of a regulatory gap.  However, I do think that the NFA is doing the right thing by publicly notifying Member Firms that this will be a compliance issue going forward – this is much better than a retroactive interpretation of existing NFA compliance rules. One thing I think that member firms should be especially concerned with is potential liability for what 3rd parties do with information which is posted online.  On the podcast, the NFA specifically suggested that firms should be policing their content and actively follow how it might be used by 3rd parties which is obviously problematic given the way the internet works.

Because these amendments affect both a current NFA Rule as well as the NFA’s Interpretive Releases, these amendments may make their way (eventually) onto the various exams (Series 3, Series 30, Series 34 especially).

These rules are also likely to create a compliance nightmare for many firms which have utilized the internet previously (and social media specifically).

Compliance Recommendations

The safest approach to social media compliance for all NFA Member Firms is to not allow the use any social media websites or other means of internet communication which would subject the firm to have a robust social media policy (including record retention policy for such media).  It will be much less costly to put a blanket prohibition on these types of activities than to develop and monitor such a policy.  For those firms who are willing to spend the time and money to implement a policy, such firms should make sure that all major aspects of the amendments are included in the policy.  Such items to consider will include: internet and social media content review, recordkeeping and storage, oversight of employees (including spot-checking internet posts and activity), and reposting review procedures, among other issues to consider.  It will be absolutely critical to make sure the policy addresses all issues raised in the Interpretive Notice and podcast because the NFA has not minced words – this is going to be a hot-button issue and it will be something the NFA will actively pursue during examinations.

Of course we will be able to provide greater guidance over the next few months as we see how the NFA handles this issue during and outside of examinations.


Notice to Members I-10-01

January 5, 2010

Effective Dates of NFA Requirements Regarding On-Line Advertising and Social Networking Groups

NFA has received notice from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) that NFA may make effective certain proposed amendments regarding the use of internet and on-line social networking groups when communicating with the public. The Interpretive Notice entitled “Use of On-Line Social Networking Groups to Communicate with the Public” makes clear that on-line communications are subject to the same standards as other types of communications with the public and provides guidance to Members to meet their responsibilities in this area. The Interpretive Notice became effective on December 24, 2009.

A related amendment to Compliance Rule 2-29(h) requires that any audio or video distributed through media accessible by the public (e.g., through the internet) that makes any specific trading recommendation or refers to the extent of profit previously obtained or achievable in the future must be submitted to NFA for review and approval at least 10 days prior to first use. In this way the amendment subjects certain on-line advertising to the same requirements as similar television and radio advertising. To allow Members sufficient time to submit these types of advertisements to NFA for approval, the amendment becomes effective as of February 1, 2010. Accordingly, any audio or video advertisements that a Member posts on-line after January 31, 2010, must have been previously reviewed and approved by NFA.

NFA’s December 8, 2009, submission letter to the CFTC contains a more detailed explanation of the changes. You can access an electronic copy of the submission letter at: http://www.nfa.futures.org/news/PDF/CFTC/CR2-29_IntNotc_re_OnLine_Social_Networking_120209.pdf.

Questions concerning these changes should be directed to Sharon Pendleton, Director, Compliance ([email protected] or 312-781-1401) or Michael A. Piracci, Senior Attorney ([email protected] or 312-781-1419).


Other related hedge fund law blog articles include:

If you are a manager or firm that needs to register as a CTA or CPO, or if you are contemplating registration, please contact Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP at 415-868-5345.

NFA Annual Questionnaire

Reminder to NFA Member Firms

As part of the annual processes and procedures NFA Members will need to make sure that they complete the NFA Annual Questionnaire.  As discussed below in the NFA’s most recent notice to members, it is important that NFA Members complete the questionnaire because some of the answers will appear as BASIC entries sometime within the first half of 2010 (for an image of this, please see Notice to Members I-10-02, reprinted in full below).  Below we have provided an overview of the major items which are addressed on the questionnaire.  NFA Members are urged to complete the NFA’s Self Exam Checklist prior to logging in to complete the questionnaire.

Questionnaire Items

The annual questionnaire actually requires the NFA Member to provide fairly detailed information on the nature of the Member’s business and the extent in which the Member participates in certain aspects of the industry such as trading in the forex markets.  Each firm will need to complete a section called “Firm & DR Information” as well as one section (or multiple sections if applicable) devoted to CTA, CPO, IB, or FCM specific questions.  Below we’ve outlined the major categories.

CTA Questionnaire

The central part of the CTA questionnaire focuses on information related to the trading program.  Such information requested includes: nominal AUM, forex account information, number of accounts trading Securities Futures Products (SFPs)*, most recent disclosure document date, whether any exemptions exist, types of investors, etc.

* A securities futures contract is a legally binding agreement between two parties to purchase or sell in the future a specific quantity of shares of a single equity security or narrow-based securities Index (e.g. products traded on One Chicago or NQLX). It does not include broad-based indices such as the S&P 500 or Dow.

CPO Questionnaire

The central part of the CPO questionnaire focuses on information related to the commodity pool.  Such information requested includes: pool trading information, question on restrictions (if any), forex trading information (if applicable), SFP trading (if applicable), most recent disclosure document date, whether any exemptions exist, etc.

Firm & DR Information

In the Firm & DR Information section you will need to include certain information on the preparer (name, title, phone, email) and you will need to complete firm information and disaster recovery information.

Firm Information

For the firm information there are a number of questions regarding the number of accounts to which the firm is currently providing advice, whether the firm is engaged in forex activities, the extent to which the firm utilizes advertising (tv/radio, print, internet), and/or whether the firm is registered in other capacity.  Importantly, there is a question regarding whether the firm has completed the self-exam checklist within the last 12 months.

Disaster Recovery Information

All NFA Member firms are required to have addressed disaster recovery.  For the purposes of the questionnaire, Members are required to provide primary and secondary contact information.  Specifically, the instructions are as follows:

For purposes of business continuity and disaster recovery, members are required to provide NFA with the name and contact information for one or two persons who NFA can contact during an emergency. Since this information will serve as an alternative contact in the event you are unable to continue doing business at your main location, the contact information that you provide should be different from that of your main location.


Notice to Members I-10-02

January 6, 2010

Reminder to all Members to complete new questions in Annual Questionnaire assessing Member’s futures-related and off-exchange forex business

On November 30, 2009, NFA issued Notice to Members I-09-21 [HFLB Note: reprinted directly below] requesting all Members to complete a series of new questions located in the Annual Questionnaire assessing their futures-related business. Although some NFA Members have complied with this request, many have not. It is critical that Members access and complete questions in the Firm and DR Information section of the Annual Questionnaire as soon as possible. This applies not only to Members trading on-exchange futures products but also Members trading in the off-exchange foreign currency (forex) market.

Beginning in early 2010 NFA’s BASIC system will display information reflecting whether firms are actively engaged in futures-related business activity or not. If the questions are not answered, the answers will default to no activity, which is what will be displayed in BASIC, as illustrated below.

For additional information and instructions on accessing the Annual Questionnaire, click here.

If you have any questions, please contact NFA’s Information Center at 800-621-3570 or 312-781-1410.


Notice I-09-21

November 30, 2009

NFA adds new questions to Annual Questionnaire to assess Member’s futures-related business

NFA has approximately 500 firms that are NFA Members but have represented to NFA via their Annual Questionnaire that they are not doing any business that requires membership (“Inactive firms”). Almost universally, these Members indicate that they maintain their membership because they may do business in the future.

Since 2006, NFA has taken several Member Responsibility Actions against Member firms that had told NFA they were inactive. These actions were taken after NFA obtained information from reviewing the internet, through contacts with other NFA Members, and by receiving customer complaints suggesting that these firms were in fact active.

Due to these disciplinary actions, NFA’s Board of Directors requested that beginning in early 2010 NFA’s BASIC system display information reflecting whether firms are actively engaged in futures-related business activity or not. Presumably, if a Member is identified in BASIC as not conducting futures-related business, this will raise a “red flag” to potential customers who are being solicited by an Inactive Firm.

Specifically, BASIC will contain information regarding whether or not the Member has on-exchange customer accounts, manages customer accounts, operates pools, is engaged in retail off-exchange foreign currency activities and/or is soliciting customer business. This information will be based solely on information that Member firms provide in their responses to the questions in the Firm and DR Information section of the Annual Questionnaire.

NFA has re-designed this portion of the Annual Questionnaire by adding new questions and moving certain questions from other sections. Firms may update the answers in the Firm and DR Information section of the Annual Questionnaire at any time.

It is critical that Members access and complete questions in the Firm and DR Information section of the Annual Questionnaire as soon as possible. If the questions are not answered, the answers will default to no activity, which is what will be displayed in BASIC.

Please follow these instructions to access the Annual Questionnaire and provide the required information.

1. Open the Questionnaire system using this link: https://www.nfa.futures.org/AppEntry/Redirect.aspx?app=SPECIAL_QUESTION

2. Enter your ORS ID and password to logon.

3. From the “Online Questionnaire Index” screen, select “Firm and DR Information” under “Questionnaire Type.” (In addition, if you have not completed your most recent Questionnaire, you should update the previous version at this time.)

4. Update the Preparer Information on the next screen, if necessary, and then click “Next.”

5. To respond to this special request,

a. Answer the questions listed at the top of the screen under the heading “Please address the following questions regarding you firm’s business operations”.

b. After answering the applicable question(s), scroll to the bottom of the screen and click the “Submit Filing” button.

c. The system will then confirm that you submitted the updated Questionnaire to NFA.

If you have any questions about this Notice, please contact NFA’s Information Center at 800.621.3570 or 312.781.1410.


Other articles related to CTAs and CPOs include:

If you are a manager or firm that needs to register as a CTA or CPO, or if you are contemplating registration, please contact Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman &  Mallon LLP 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.


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.


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.

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.


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.

CTA Expo 2009

Commodity Trading Advisor Conference

Next week there will be a conference for Commodity Trading Advisors held in Chicago at the Hotel Monaco.  The conference, entitled the CTA Expo 2009, will be held on Wednesday and will feature a variety of topics of interest to CTAs.  The agenda includes:

I will be representing my firm, Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP, at the conference and I look forward to meeting with the different traders and service providers at the event.  Each entrant will also receive a CTA Directory which will include a “tear sheet” on all of the groups which attended.  Please see the Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP description of CTA services.


Event information can be found here.  There is also a CTA Expo LinkedIn Group.

October 21, 2009
Hotel Monaco Chicago, Illinois

CTA EXPO consists of a day of roundtables and seminars for Commodity Trading Advisors on marketing strategy combined with an all day schedule of thirty minute presentations by individual CTAS to small groups of professional money raisers, asset allocators and interested clients who are seeking to identify additional trading talent.

The debut conference in 2008 sold out in advance and was attended by over thirty-five CTAs and over sixty people who registered as professional money raisers and asset allocators. We have increased capacity for 2009 and interest in this year’s event has already been tremendous and we are anticipating another sold out event.


The hedge fund law blog 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 registration or compliance services please contact Bart Mallon, Esq. at 415-868-5345.

CTA and CPO Registration and Compliance Guide

Practical guidance for CTA and CPO firms

Commodity Trading Advisors (CTAs) and Commodity Pool Operators (CPOs) have been contacting me with greater regularity and we have decided to provide those firms with more detailed information on their registration and compliance requirements. Over the course of the next few weeks we will be continually updating this page with more legal and business guidance for CTAs and CPOs. Specifically, we will be providing information on the following topics:

CTA and CPO Registration – this article discusses the how-to’s of registration with the CFTC. The article details the general requirements for firms, principals, and associated persons. Included in this discussion is information on CTA/CPO exam requirements and an overview of the registration process through the NFA’s electronic registration system.

CTA and CPO Registration Exemptions – while the Commodities Exchange Act will generally require CTA and CPO firms to register with the CFTC, there are some important exemptions from the registration provisions. Review this article to see if your firm might be able to claim an exemption from the registration provisions.

CTA and CPO Compliance Overview – CTAs and CPOs are subject to a number of laws, regulations and rules. Not only must CTAs and CPOs follow CFTC laws and regulations, but as Members of the NFA, these groups must also follow all of the rules developed by the NFA. We will be discussing compliance best practices, major examination issues, major deadlines and the CTA/CPO compliance manual. Being prepared for an NFA examination is of great importance.

Recent NFA Actions against CTA and CPO Managers – the NFA and the CFTC have been quite active lately. In this article we will be discussing some of the most recent actions against NFA member firms. This article will also provide common-sense advice on what managers can do the protect themselves from examination deficiencies.

Important NFA Rules for CTA and CPO Firms – there are a number of rules which the NFA has regarding the conduct of CTAs and CPOs. In general CTAs and CPOs must hold themselves out with the utmost professionalism. This article will detail this and other important NFA rules.

CTA and CPO advertising – there are a number of important rules regarding advertising for CTAs and CPOs. CPOs, especially, must be careful about advertising because of the restrictions under Rule 506 of Regulation D, an exemption that many CPOs utilize in offering their fund interests. Websites will be touched upon in this post and will also be discussed in greater depth in a subsequent posting.

CTA and CPO websites – many CTA firms utilize the internet to advertise their services. CPO firms will also sometimes have a (minimal) internet presence. This article will detail the considerations that both CTA and CPO firms face when creating and maintaining an internet presence and how to deal with internet based inquiries from potential investors.

NFA Exam Requirements for CTAs and CPOs – individuals of NFA member firms will generally need to have a Series 3 exam license and potentially a Series 30 exam. Some individuals may need to have a Series 31 exam license and, potentially in the future, forex CTAs and CPOs will need to have a Series 34 exam license. This article will discuss these exams and the process an individual will go through in order to register to take the exams.

CTA Expo Blog – the unofficial blog of the CTA Expo most recently held in October of 2009.  Information for CTA managers on business, legal and compliance issues.  Included is a directory of CTA firms and service providers.

Forex CTAs and CPOs – the regulatory light has been focused on retail spot forex managers recently. Read this article to get up to speed on recent CFTC and NFA pronouncements regarding this area of the industry. We will also provide information on Forex IBs and Forex FCMs.

In addition to the above topics we are hoping to add others over time. We welcome all feedback and encourage you to leave comments below. We will also attempt to answer CTA and CPO frequently asked questions.

If you are a manager or firm that needs to register as a CTA or CPO, or if you are contemplating registration, please contact Bart Mallon, Esq. of Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP at 415-868-5345.

NFA Rule Compliance Rule 2-45 Approved

CPOs Prohibited From Taking Loans From Commodity Hedge Funds

The CFTC just recently approved a new NFA compliance rule which prohibits commodity pool operators (CPOs) from taking loans from the commodity pools which they manage. Additionally, if a CPO currently has some sort of a loan arrangement with their fund, such CPO will have until October 22, 2009 to notify the NFA of the arrangement and surrounding facts and circumstances.

With regard to this new rule, we urge CPOs to take the following notes:

  • If you currently have a loan arrangement with your fund, please contact an attorney immediately. If you have such an arrangement and do not disclose this to the NFA within the allowed time frame, you will be subject to significant action in the future if it is found that you did not comply with this requirement.
  • CPOs should think about updating their commodity pool offering documents to include a discussion of this new prohibition (if it is not already discussed in the pool offering documents).
  • CPOs should update their compliance manuals and procedures to specifically address this issue – it is likely that this will be a specific examination item in the near future and a well prepared CPO should have procedures in place to ensure compliance.

Below we have reprinted the notice announcing the new rule as well as the interpretive release which provides color on the new rule. If you have any questions on this new rule and its applicability to you CPO or your commodity pool, please contact us.  Related article:


Notice I-09-17

September 22, 2009

Effective Date of NFA Requirements Prohibiting Loans by Commodity Pools to CPOs and Related Entities

NFA has received notice that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) has approved new NFA Compliance Rule 2-45. This Rule and its accompanying Interpretive Notice, which both became effective September 11, 2009, prohibit commodity pools from making direct or indirect loans or advances of pool assets to the CPO or any other affiliated person or entity.

CPOs that currently have existing loan or advance arrangements between their pools and the CPO, the CPO’s principals, or related entities must notify NFA of these arrangements by October 22, 2009. The written notification to NFA should describe the reason for the loan or advance; indicate the interest the CPO is paying, if any; provide evidence that the loan or advance is secured by marketable, liquid assets; explain arrangements the CPO has made to pay back the loan or advance, if any; and include an executed copy of the loan or advance agreement. In addition, the CPO must provide NFA with written evidence that pool participants were informed about the loan or advance through a disclosure contained in the disclosure document, offering memorandum or other correspondence.

NFA will review the information provided to ensure, among other things, that participants received a full disclosure of the arrangements and that the loans and advances are secured by marketable liquid assets. Depending on the results of the review, NFA will determine if a CPO needs to take any additional steps regarding a particular loan or advance. NFA may also recommend disciplinary action if warranted by our review of the circumstances.

More information about NFA Compliance Rule 2-45, and the accompanying Interpretive Notice, can be found in NFA’s August 26, 2009 Submission Letter to the CFTC. Questions concerning these changes should be directed to Mary McHenry, Senior Manager, Compliance ([email protected] or 312-781-1420) or Tracey Hunt, Senior Manager, Compliance ([email protected] or 312-781-1284).


August 26, 2009

Via Federal Express

Mr. David A. Stawick
Office of the Secretariat
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Three Lafayette Centre
1155 21st Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20581

Re: National Futures Association: Prohibition of Loans by Pools to Commodity Pool Operators and Related Parties – Proposed Adoption of Compliance Rule 2-45 and Interpretive Notice*

Dear Mr. Stawick:

On May 27, 2009, National Futures Association (“NFA”) submitted proposed new Compliance Rule 2-45 to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC” or “Commission”) for its review and approval. NFA hereby withdraws that submission and, pursuant to Section 17(j) of the Commodity Exchange Act, as amended, hereby resubmits the proposed Compliance Rule 2-45 and related Interpretive regarding prohibition of loans by pools to CPOs and related parties.

Compliance Rule 2-45 was approved by NFA’s Board of Directors (“Board”) on May 21, 2009, and the Interpretive Notice was approved by the Board on August 20, 2009. NFA is invoking the “ten-day” provision of Section 17(j) of the Commodity Exchange Act (“CEA”) and will make these proposals effective ten days after receipt of this submission by the Commission unless the Commission notifies NFA that the Commission has determined to review the proposals for approval.

(additions are underscored)

* * *
* * *


No Member CPO may permit a commodity pool to use any means to make a direct or indirect loan or advance of pool assets to the CPO or any other affiliated person or entity.

* * *
* * *


NFA has recently taken a number of Member Responsibility Actions (MRAs) against commodity pool operators (CPOs) and CPO principals who directly or indirectly loaned or advanced pool assets to themselves or an affiliated person or entity. Many of these arrangements were used by these principals to purchase luxury items, while others went to related entities that did not have sufficient assets to repay the loans. In each case, the transaction resulted in significant losses to participants’ funds.

The Board of Directors has determined that direct or indirect loans or advances from pools to their CPOs, the CPO’s principals, or related entities should be prohibited. Therefore, NFA Compliance Rule 2-45 prohibits CPOs from permitting a commodity pool to use any means to make a direct or indirect loan or advance of pool assets to the CPO or any other affiliated person or entity.

NFA understands that a few pools may have made these types of loan or advance arrangements prior to Compliance Rule 2-45’s effective date. These CPOs are required to notify NFA of these existing arrangements within thirty (30) days of Compliance Rule 2-45’s effective date.

These arrangements violate NFA’s existing compliance rules if the arrangements are not consistent with the pool’s current disclosure document or offering materials and both the loan(s) or advance(s) and the conflict of interest are not fully disclosed to participants. Existing arrangements also violate NFA’s rules if the loan or advance is not secured by marketable, liquid assets (e.g. a CPO participant’s pro-rata interest in the pool’s liquid assets) and, therefore, the arrangement could have a material effect upon the pool’s ability to meet its obligations to participants.


In February, NFA took two Member Responsibility Actions (“MRAs”) against three NFA Member commodity pool operators (“CPOs”). Although the basis of both MRAs was the CPOs’ failure to cooperate with NFA in an investigation, the limited investigation that NFA was able to perform revealed that the CPOs had misappropriated pool funds through improper loans from pools to the CPOs or related entities. The CFTC charged all three of the CPOs with misappropriating pool assets through improper loans, and all three were charged criminally with fraud.

These two matters are not the first instances of CPOs misappropriating pool participant funds through direct or indirect loans from a pool to the CPO or a related entity. Over the years, there have been a number of regulatory actions involving this type of fraud. Given the significant losses suffered by pool participants as a result of these improper loans, NFA is proposing to prohibit direct or indirect loans from commodity pools to the CPO or any affiliated person or entity.

NFA staff discussed this matter with NFA’s CPO/CTA Advisory Committee, which supported prohibiting loans because it believes that absent extraordinary circumstances there is no legitimate reason for a pool to make a direct or indirect loan to its CPO or a related party.

At its May 2009 meeting, the Board approved Compliance Rule 2-45. Although the rule provides for a complete prohibition, the Board was somewhat concerned that there might be some unforeseen very limited circumstances where a carve-out to this prohibition would be appropriate. As a result, the Board instructed staff to handle these situations on a case-by-case basis, with the CPO seeking no-action relief from NFA.

After NFA submitted the proposed rule to the Commission for approval, Commission staff informed NFA that although they supported the overall concept, they had concerns regarding NFA’s granting of no-action relief. In light of the Commission’s concerns and the fact that there are few, if any, foreseeable situations in which NFA should permit a loan arrangement, the Board reconsidered its original position regarding no-action relief.

Nonetheless, the Board recognizes that there are a few loan arrangements currently in place that have been fully disclosed and are adequately collateralized. Therefore, the Interpretive Notice provides that CPOs will not be required to immediately sell other assets to repay these existing loans. CPOs will, however, be required to notify NFA of any such current arrangements within 30 days of Compliance Rule 2-45’s effective date. NFA will review these arrangements to ensure, among other things, that participants were provided with full disclosure of the arrangements and that the loans are secured by marketable, liquid assets. Moreover, as NFA has done in several recent MRAs, we will not hesitate to recommend disciplinary action if we find those loans involve fraud, inadequate disclosure or are not properly collateralized.

As mentioned earlier, NFA is invoking the “ten-day” provision of Section 17(j) of the Commodity Exchange Act. NFA intends to make proposed Compliance Rule 2-45 and the related Interpretive Notice regarding the prohibition of loans by pools to CPOs and related parties effective ten days after receipt of this submission by the Commission, unless the Commission notifies NFA that the Commission has determined to review the proposal for approval.

Respectfully submitted,

Thomas W. Sexton
Senior Vice President and
General Counsel
* The proposed adoption of Compliance Rule 2-45 and Interpretive Notice became effective September 11, 2009.


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Bart Mallon, Esq. runs hedge fund law blog and has written most all of the articles which appear on this website.  Mr. Mallon’s legal practice is devoted to helping emerging and start up hedge fund managers successfully launch a hedge fund.  If you are a hedge fund manager who is looking to start a hedge fund, or if you have questions about the CPO or CTA registration process, please call Mr. Mallon directly at 415-296-8510.