Tag Archives: qualified purchaser

Qualified Eligible Person (QEP) Definition

The securities laws can be written obtusely and the definition of a qualified eligible person (QEP) may be one of the best examples of this.  There is no quick and easy definition of a what a QEP is so we are trying to make it as easy as possible to understand.  This post discusses the importance of the classification, provides the overview of the definition and then provides a link to the actual statutory language.

Why QEP Definition is Important for CPOs

The definition of QEP is important for commodity pool operators (CPOs) in a couple of situations.  The first is the 4.13(a)(4) exemption from the registration provisions for a CPO that provides advice to a commodity pool with only QEPs.  The second situation where a CPO will need to make sure the investors are QEPs is if they want to take advantage of the Rule 4.7 exemption.  The Rule 4.7 exemption allows CPOs to follow less-strict reporting requirements with regard to the commodity pool they manage.  These two exemptions essentially provide for reduced regulatory oversight of a CPO who provides advisory services to these class of investors.

Definition of QEP

A qualified eligible person is an investor who fits into one of two distinct groups: (1) investors who do not need to meet the portfolio requirement and (2) investors who need to meet the portfolio requirement.

1.  Investors who do not need to meet the portfolio requirement:

The following are considered to be QEPs regardless of whether or not they meet the portfolio requirement:

  • registered futures commission merchants
  • registered broker or dealers
  • registered commodity pool operators (under certain conditions, see rule for more details)
  • registered commodity trading advisors (under certain conditions, see rule for more details)
  • state or SEC registered investment advisers (under certain conditions, see rule for more details)
  • qualified purchasers
  • knowledgeable employee of the CPOs
  • certain persons related to advisers to exempt from registration as a CPO or CTA
  • trusts (under certain conditions, see rule for more details)
  • 501(c)(3) organizations (under certain conditions, see rule for more details)
  • non-United States persons
  • certain entities in which all of the owners/participants are QEPs

2.  Investors who need to meet the portfolio requirement:

The following will be considered to be QEPs only if they meet the portfolio requirement described below:

  • investment companies registered under the Investment Company Act (i.e. mutual funds)
  • certain business development companies (defined under both the Investment Company Act and Investment Advisers Act)
  • banks, savings and loan associations, and other like institutions acting for their own accounts or for the account of a QEP
  • insurance companies acting for their own account or for the account of a qualified eligible person
  • plans established and maintained by various governments and related bodies for the benefit of their employees, if such plan has total assets in excess of $5,000,000
  • employee benefit plans within the meaning of the ERISA (under certain conditions, see rule for more details)
  • 501(c)(3) organizations with total assets in excess of $5,000,000
  • corporations, business trusts, partnerships, LLCs or similar business ventures with total assets in excess of $5,000,000 and not formed for the specific purpose of participating in the exempt investment program
  • a natural person whose individual net worth, or joint net worth with that person’s spouse, at the time of either his purchase in the exempt pool or his opening of an exempt account exceeds $1,000,000 [HFLB note: this is one part of the accredited investor definition]
  • a natural person who had an individual income in excess of $200,000 in each of the two most recent years or joint income with that person’s spouse in excess of $300,000 in each of those years and has a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level in the current year [HFLB note: this is one part of the accredited investor definition]
  • pools, trusts, insurance company separate accounts or bank collective trusts, with total assets in excess of $5,000,000 (under certain conditions, see below)
  • other entities authorized by law to engage in such transactions (under certain conditions, see rule for more details)

3.  Portfolio Requirement

If an investor is one of the entities described in (2) above, it will also need to meet the portfolio requirement.  The portfolio requirement can be met in one of three ways:

  • Owns securities and other investments with an aggregate market value of at least $2MM;
  • Has had on deposit with a FCM at least $200K in exchange-specified initial margin and option premiums for commodity interest transactions in the 6 months prior to the investment; or
  • Has a combination of the two above.  For example, has $1MM in securities/investments and $100K in exchange-specified initial margin in the 6 months prior to the investment

The above definitions have been shortened for the purpose of providing a general overview.  When determining whether an investor meets the qualified eligible person definition the CPO should take special care to make sure that the investor meets the full definition which can be found here.  Generally the investor will make these representations in the subscription documents which are drafted by the hedge fund attorney.


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

Hedge Fund Investors Overview

The lifeblood of the hedge fund industry are hedge fund investors, those persons and institutions which put their money at risk with the hope of generating positive investment returns.  While there have been recent predictions of large amounts of investor money leaving the hedge fund space due to poor performance, there are many potential hedge fund investors who are just beginning to warm to the idea of investing in a hedge fund.

Who can invest in a hedge fund?

In general there are two types of hedge funds which are open to different types of investors.

Section 3(c)(1) hedge funds are open to investors who are both accredited investors and qualified clients. An accredited investor is generally an individual with a $1 million dollar net worth (can include the equity in the investor’s primary residence) or an individual who has made $200,000 in each of the two most recent years (or joint income with that person’s spouse in excess of $300,000 in each of those years) and has a reasonable expectation of reaching the same income level in the current year.  A qualified client is generally an individual with a $1.5 million dollar net worth.  Because investors will need to be both an accredited investor and a qualified client, many hedge fund managers will just say that the investor needs to be a qualified client as it has the higher net worth threshold.

Section 3(c)(7) hedge funds are open to qualified purchasers, which is a higher net worth threshold than for the accredited investor or qualified client standard.  A qualified purchaser is generally an individual investor with a $5 million dollar liquid net worth (cannot include the equity of the investor’s primary residence).

Occasionally you will see some Section 3(c)(1) hedge funds which allow non-accredited investors to invest in the fund.  In such instances, the fund will typically charge the non-accredited investor a higher management fee because the non-accredited investor cannot be charged a performance fee.  In general, hedge fund managers will not allow non-accredited investors into the hedge fund except for very close family and friends.

Why would someone invest in a hedge fund?

Hedge funds have historically been viewed as nimble investment vehicles run by savvy managers who are able to produce steady and absolute returns.  Hedge funds come in a variety of different sizes (from the one-man shops to the multi-billion dollar operations) and strategies.  The great diversity of funds and their investment objectives is what makes them exciting, but which also makes it difficult to describe them as a whole.  Suffice it to say that whatever investment strategy an investor is looking for, there is a hedge fund which would be able to meet the needs of that investor.

Who can recommend hedge fund investments?

Hedge fund investments are made through private placements according to the Regulation D offering rules.  This means that only the hedge fund manager and certain hedge fund brokers can offer an investor interests in a hedge fund, and that is only if the manager or the broker has a pre-existing relationship with the investor.  There are some ways which investors can gain access to hedge funds, most notably through hedge fund databases.

What should an investor do before investing in a hedge fund?

At a minimum an investor should carefully read the hedge fund’s offering documents.  An investor should also discuss any questions or concerns with the hedge fund manager.  Additionally, I always recommend that investors conduct some sort of due diligence on the hedge fund and the manager.

HFLB note: we are not recommending that readers invest in hedge funds and we are not recommending any specific hedge funds.  If an investor makes an investment into a hedge fund, any such investments should be made only after consultation with such investor’s legal and accounting advisors.

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Section 3(c)(7) Hedge Funds

Almost all hedge funds which trade securities are deemed to be “investment companies” under the Investment Company Act of 1940.  All “investment companies” are required to register under the Investment Company Act (like all mutual funds must do) unless the “investment company” falls within an exemption from the registration provisions.

In addition to the Section 3(c)(1) exemption discussed in a previous post, this article describes the section 3(c)(7) exemption.

A 3(c)(7) hedge fund is exempt under the Investment Company Act and must comply with two basic requirements: (1) the fund can have only qualified purchasers as investors and (2) the fund can have no more than 499 investors.  These requirements are detailed below.

Qualified Purchaser Requirement

There are two exemptions from the Investment Company Act registration provisions for hedge funds.  Under the first regulation, each investor must be a qualified purchaser.  Section 3(c)(7) states:

None of the following persons is an investment company within the meaning of this title: any issuer, the outstanding securities of which are owned exclusively by persons who, at the time of acquisition of such securities, are qualified purchasers, and which is not making and does not at that time propose to make a public offering of such securities. Securities that are owned by persons who received the securities from a qualified purchaser as a gift or bequest, or in a case in which the transfer was caused by legal separation, divorce, death, or other involuntary event, shall be deemed to be owned by a qualified purchaser, subject to such rules, regulations, and orders as the Commission may prescribe as necessary or appropriate in the public interest or for the protection of investors.

Generally, a qualified purchaser is an individual with a liquid net worth of $5 million or an institution with a net worth of $25 million. You will notice that in additional to the qualified purchaser requirement, the fund cannot make a public offering of its securities.  Because almost all hedge funds are offered pursuant to the Regulation D offering rules, this requirement will always be met.

500 or Fewer Investors

Unlike the Section 3(c)(1) exemption which limits the amount of investors in this type of fund, the Section 3(c)(7) exemption does not contain any such limit on the amount of qualified purchasers who can invest in the fund. However, hedge funds are subject to all of the federal securities laws which include the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Under the Exchange Act, Section 12(g)(1) provides that a Section 3(c)(7) hedge fund would be required to register under the Exchange Act as a reporting company if the hedge fund had more than $10,000,000 in assets and 500 or more investors.  As 3(c)(7) hedge funds are available only to qualified purchasers, the $10 million in assets would be an easy threshold to meet and this is why 3(c)(7) funds are limited to 499 investors.

While registration under Exchange Act is not as onerous as under the Securities Act of 1933, it is still undesirable for hedge fund managers.  If a hedge fund manager did register under the Exchange Act (which some have chosen to do, although mostly in the non-securities context), the fund would become a “reporting company” and would need to submit certain periodic reports to the SEC.  Because these reports are time consuming and expensive to produce, most 3(c)(7) hedge funds will specifically state that no more than 499 investors may participate in the offering.

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What happens if a hedge fund doesn’t do proper diligence to ascertain that a client meets the qualified purchaser standards?

This question came to us yesterday:

Question: What happens if a hedge fund doesn’t do proper diligence to ascertain that a client meets the qualified purchaser standards? Does the hedge fund have to register or notify the SEC?

Answer: In practice I don’t know how this would happen unless someone at the hedge fund management company was completely asleep at the wheel.

The job of the hedge fund attorney is to provide the hedge fund offering documents to the manager and to inform the manager of how the offering documents should be completed.  The hedge fund’s subscription documents usually include some sort of investor questionnaire where the investor will need to make certain representations to the hedge fund manager.  One of these representations will be whether the investor is an accredited investor and, if the fund is a 3(c)(7) fund, whether the investor is a qualified purchaser.  When the investor returns the subscription documents (and before the investor has sent a wire to the fund), the manager should make sure that the offering documents have been completed in their entirety and correctly.  If a manager has a question about whether the investor has completed the subscription documents correctly, the manager should bring up such questions or concerns with the hedge fund attorney.  In the event that the manager does not receive properly completed subscription documents, the manager should discuss this issue immediately with the attorney.

I cannot think of any reason why a hedge fund manager would have to register as an investment advisor because of incomplete (or improperly completed) subscription documents.

What is a qualified purchaser?

We have previously discussed the difference between a 3(c)(1) hedge fund and a 3(c)(7) hedge fund. Unlike a 3(c)(1) hedge fund where investors only generally need to be accredited investors and potentially qualified clients, all investors in a 3(c)(7) hedge fund must be “qualified purchasers.” A qualified purchaser is a greater requirement than an accredited investor and a qualified client. Generally only super high net worth individuals and institutional investors will fit within the definition of qualified purchaser. Because of this fact, there are fewer 3(c)(7) hedge funds than 3(c)(1) hedge funds. Also, most 3(c)(7) funds are going to be funds with greater intial investment requirements and will be marketed towards the institutional market. Because of this, 3(c)(7) hedge funds will tend to have greater assets than many 3(c)(1) hedge funds.

The definition of “qualified purchaser” is found in the Investment Company Act of 1940. The definition includes:

i. any natural person (including any person who holds a joint, community property, or other similar shared ownership interest in an issuer that is excepted under section 3(c)(7) with that person’s qualified purchaser spouse) who owns not less than $ 5,000,000 in investments, as defined below;

ii. any company that owns not less than $ 5,000,000 in investments and that is owned directly or indirectly by or for 2 or more natural persons who are related as siblings or spouse (including former spouses), or direct lineal descendants by birth or adoption, spouses of such persons, the estates of such persons, or foundations, charitable organizations, or trusts established by or for the benefit of such persons;

iii. any trust that is not covered by clause (ii) and that was not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, as to which the trustee or other person authorized to make decisions with respect to the trust, and each settlor or other person who has contributed assets to the trust, is a person described in clause (i), (ii), or (iv); or

iv. any person, acting for its own account or the accounts of other qualified purchasers, who in the aggregate owns and invests on a discretionary basis, not less than $ 25,000,000 in investments.

v. any qualified institutional buyer as defined in Rule 144A under the Securities Act, acting for its own account, the account of another qualified institutional buyer, or the account of a qualified purchaser, provided that (i) a dealer described in paragraph (a)(1)(ii) of Rule 144A shall own and invest on a discretionary basis at least $25,000,000 in securities of issuers that are not affiliated persons of the dealer; and (ii) a plan referred to in paragraph (a)(1)(D) or (a)(1)(E) of Rule 144A, or a trust fund referred to in paragraph (a)(1)(F) of Rule 144A that holds the assets of such a plan, will not be deemed to be acting for its own account if investment decisions with respect to the plan are made by the beneficiaries of the plan, except with respect to investment decisions made solely by the fiduciary, trustee or sponsor of such plan;

vi. any company that, but for the exceptions provided for in Sections 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) under the ICA, would be an investment company (hereafter in this paragraph referred to as an “excepted investment company”), provided that all beneficial owners of its outstanding securities (other than short-term paper), determined in accordance with Section 3(c)(1)(A) thereunder, that acquired such securities on or before April 30, 1996 (hereafter in this paragraph referred to as “pre-amendment beneficial owners”), and all pre-amendment beneficial owners of the outstanding securities (other than short-term paper) or any excepted investment company that, directly or indirectly, owns any outstanding securities of such excepted investment company, have consented to its treatment as a qualified purchaser.

vii. any natural person who is deemed to be a “knowledgeable employee” of the [fund], as such term is defined in Rule 3c-5(4) of the ICA; or

viii. any person (“Transferee”) who acquires Interests from a person (“Transferor”) that is (or was) a qualified purchaser other than the [fund], provided that the Transferee is: (i) the estate of the Transferor; (ii) a person who acquires the Interests as a gift or bequest pursuant to an agreement relating to a legal separation or divorce; or (iii) a company established by the Transferor exclusively for the benefit of (or owned exclusively by) the Transferor and the persons specified in this paragraph.

ix. any company, if each beneficial owner of the company’s securities is a qualified purchaser.
For the purpsoes of above, the term Investments means:

(1) securities (as defined by section 2(a)(1)of the Securities Act of 1933), other than securities of an issuer that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with, the prospective qualified purchaser that owns such securities, unless the issuer of such securities is: (i) an investment vehicle; (ii) a public company; or (iii) a company with shareholders’ equity of not less than $50 million (determined in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles) as reflected on the company’s most recent financial statements, provided that such financial statements present the information as of a date within 16 months preceding the date on which the prospective qualified purchaser acquires the securities of a Section 3(c)(7) Company;

(2) real estate held for investment purposes;

(3) commodity interests held for investment purposes;

(4) physical commodities held for investment purposes;

(5) to the extent not securities, financial contracts (as such term is defined in section 3(c)(2)(B)(ii) of the ICA entered into for investment purposes;

(6) in the case of a prospective qualified purchaser that is a Section 3(c)(7) Company, a company that would be an investment company but for the exclusion provided by section 3(c)(1) of the ICA, or a commodity pool, any amounts payable to such prospective qualified purchaser pursuant to a firm agreement or similar binding commitment pursuant to which a person has agreed to acquire an interest in, or make capital contributions to, the prospective qualified purchaser upon the demand of the prospective qualified purchaser; and

(7) cash and cash equivalents (including foreign currencies) held for investment purposes. For purposes of this section, cash and cash equivalents include: (i) bank deposits, certificates of deposit, bankers acceptances and similar bank instruments held for investment purposes; and (ii) the net cash surrender value of an insurance policy.