Tag Archives: regulation D

What is an accredited investor? Accredited investor definition

[2017 EDITORS NOTE: this article will be updated shortly.  Please note that the definition has changed and that the net worth requirement now carves out any equity or debt of a personal residence.]

Hedge fund managers can only admit certain investors into their hedge funds.  Most hedge funds are structured as private placements relying on the Regulation D 506 offering rules.  Under the Reg D rules, investors must generally be “accredited investors.”  Many hedge funds have additional requirements.

With regard to individual investors, the most common of the below requirements is the $1 million net worth (which does include assets such as a personal residence).   With regard to institutional investors, the most commonly used category is probably #3 below, an entity with at least $5 million in assets.  Please note that there may be additional requirements for your individual hedge fund so you should discuss any questions you have with your attorney.

The accredited investor definition can be found in the Securities Act of 1933.  The definition is:

Accredited investor shall mean any person who comes within any of the following categories, or who the issuer [the hedge fund] reasonably believes comes within any of the following categories, at the time of the sale of the securities [the interests in the hedge fund] to that person:

1. Any bank as defined in section 3(a)(2) of the [Securities] Act, or any savings and loan association or other institution as defined in section 3(a)(5)(A) of the Act whether acting in its individual or fiduciary capacity; any broker or dealer registered pursuant to section 15 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; any insurance company as defined in section 2(a)(13) of the Act; any investment company registered under the Investment Company Act of 1940 or a business development company as defined in section 2(a)(48) of that Act; any Small Business Investment Company licensed by the U.S. Small Business Administration under section 301(c) or (d) of the Small Business Investment Act of 1958; any plan established and maintained by a state, its political subdivisions, or any agency or instrumentality of a state or its political subdivisions, for the benefit of its employees, if such plan has total assets in excess of $5,000,000; any employee benefit plan within the meaning of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 if the investment decision is made by a plan fiduciary, as defined in section 3(21) of such act, which is either a bank, savings and loan association, insurance company, or registered investment adviser, or if the employee benefit plan has total assets in excess of $5,000,000 or, if a self-directed plan, with investment decisions made solely by persons that are accredited investors;

2. Any private business development company as defined in section 202(a)(22) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940;

3. Any organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, corporation, Massachusetts or similar business trust, or partnership, not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, with total assets in excess of $5,000,000;

4. Any director, executive officer, or general partner of the issuer of the securities being offered or sold, or any director, executive officer, or general partner of a general partner of that issuer;

5. Any natural person whose individual net worth, or joint net worth with that person’s spouse, at the time of his purchase exceeds $1,000,000;

6. Any 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;

7. Any trust, with total assets in excess of $5,000,000, not formed for the specific purpose of acquiring the securities offered, whose purchase is directed by a sophisticated person as described in Rule 506(b)(2)(ii) and

8. Any entity in which all of the equity owners are accredited investors.

Hedge Fund Websites – How to Run a Hedge Fund Website

A common question from start-up hedge fund managers is what kind of a website can I have and how do I go about getting investors through an internet solicitation? The unfortunate answer is that hedge fund managers must be very careful when they are designing their website. In general, websites for a hedge fund or a hedge fund manager need to be very low key and potentially password protected. This is especially important in the current regulatory enviornment because securities officials, at both the federal and state level, are becoming more and more vigilant about enforcing the website solicitation rules. This article will briefly detail the legal background and some website best practices.

Regulation D – no “public offering”

Most hedge funds are offered to investors through a Regulation D private placement offering. One of the requirements of the Reg. D offering is that the sale of securities (interests in the hedge fund) is not done through a “public offering.” While there is no exact definition of “public offering,” it will generally mean that the hedge fund is not allowed to offer or sell interests through general solicitation or general advertising. According to the SEC, the analysis can be broken down into two main questions: (i) is a communication a general solicitation or advertisement, and, if so, (ii) is it being used to offer or sell securities? If the answer to either of these questions is negative, the fund is not in violation of public offering rules.

Regulation D – the “pre-existing” relationship

If a private placement is offered to potential investors with whom the hedge fund manager has no pre-existing relationship, the SEC may conclude that there was a general solicitation in violation of the Reg D rules.

Frequently, an issuer can satisfy the pre-existing relationship requirement through prior investment or other business dealings with the potential purchaser. The pre-existing relationship generally involves at least some degree of contact between the issuer and the prospective purchaser prior to the offering – generally 30 days from a “first contact.”

[HFLB note: there are a couple of very important no-action letters on this subject. I will be posting these in the next couple of days.]

Website Best Practices

We will generally recommend that all web presence be minimized. The two most important principles with regard to web presence and web communications are (1) do not name the hedge fund and (2) do not personally, or by fiat, write that you manage a hedge fund. Besides those two overriding items, we recommend that the web presence is minimal at all times. However, we are aware that from a business standpoint, the manager would like to have a web presence.

There are five important parts to a hedge fund website:

The Splash Page

The hedge fund manager should have an initial “splash page” which might include the name of the management company (do not say you are an “investment advisor” unless registered as such in your state of residence or with the SEC). The splash page should include very minimal information.

Note: you should not include your phone number or contact information on this splash page.

Registration Page

This page should have questions to determine if a viewer is qualified to be viewing the fund’s information over the internet. Generally this will include the accredited investor qualifications; it may also mean that the qualified client qualifications are also included.

Login Page (may be on the splash page)

This page will be for viewers who are either currently invested in your fund or who have met the qualifications of registration.

Password protected content

All identifying information of the fund and management company should be password protected. You should never post the fund’s offering documents on the internet unless there are stringent controls in place to make sure that the offering documents can only be viewed by the one investor they are intended for – even if there are these stringent controls, we would normally recommend against this practice.

General disclaimer

The site should have a general disclaimer which should be prepared by an attorney. Additionally, all performance information within the password protected portion of your website should have all appropriate disclaimers.

Note: it is recommended that once you have an almost final draft of the website, you should have your lawyer review before it goes live.

Legal Developments and Conclusion

The regulators are very sensitve about website solicitations. For example,the State of Massachusetts is trying to fine activist hedge fund manager Phillip Goldstein, of Bulldog Investors, because of how he designed his fund’s website. The famed investment adviser is under prosecution by Massachusetts for allowing potential investors unrestricted access to Bulldog’s website. [HFLB to insert the complaint.]

Because of this and other activity it is extremely important that you have your hedge fund attorney discuss the website rules with you. Please contact us if you have further questions or if you would like help launching your hedge fund website.

What is a hedge fund?

In short, hedge funds are pooled investment vehicles. That is, a hedge fund is a company which pools money from its investors (owners) and makes investments pursuant to the fund’s stated investment objective. There are many different types of hedge funds, which can invest in everything from stocks and bonds to more esoteric investments like derivatives, commodities and real estate. In addition to investments in a wide variety of financial or other instruments, hedge funds can “short” certain financial instruments and can also borrow to “leverage” their investments.

Unlike mutual funds, hedge funds are not registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. While this means that hedge funds are not subject to the same level of government scrutiny as mutual funds, it does not mean that the SEC and the states cannot bring enforcement actions against hedge fund managers who break the law or make misrepresentations to investors.

While hedge funds are not subject to the more rigorous standards of mutual funds, they will need to comply with the U.S. securities laws regarding “private placements.” Hedge funds are generally sold to investors in “private placements” which means that hedge fund managers cannot advertise and that, generally, investors will need to be “accredited investors” that is they must have either (i) a one million dollar net worth or (ii). The investment managers will also need to adhere to certain filings within each state in which an investor resides. This will generally mean that they must file a “Form D” notice with each state within 15 days of the date in which each investor invests in the fund. The “Form D” must also be filed with the SEC within this time period.

Monthly Feature: Hedge fund offering documents

The central reason that beginning hedge fund managers need a lawyer is that the lawyer will prepare the offering documents for the fund. The offering documents are designed to comply with the requirements of the federal securities laws as interests in the fund (whether the fund is a limited partnership or a limited liability company). Specifically the offering documents will most likely be drafted to conform to the requirements of Rule 506 of Regulation D under the Securities Act of 1933.

The offering documents are the necessary paperwork that the manager must give to prospective investors. The offering documents will look very similar to a mutual fund prospectus. The three parts of the offering documents are:

  1. The private placement memorandum (also sometimes called the offering memorandum). The private placement memorandum (also known as the “PPM”), is the main offering document. It provides the prospective investor with information on the structural and business aspects of the fund.
  2. The limited partnership agreement (or, if the fund is an LLC, the operating agreement). The limited partnership agreement (also known as the “LPA”), is the actual governing legal document. It provides a description of the rights of the investors and the manager. When an investor becomes a “partner” in the fund, the investor is executing the limited partnership agreement.
  3. The subscription documents. The subscription documents are the documents which provide the manager with background information on the investor. These documents include assurance and warranties by the potential investor that the potential investor is qualified to invest in the offering. These documements usually include the signature page to the LPA.

A more in depth description of the potential parts of the offering documents follows:

Private Placement Memorandum

While each law firm’s general PPM template is different, they all share many of the same items of information which are included. Below is a non-exhaustive list of some of the major sections of the PPM which you are likely to find in all offering documents.

  • Coverage
  • Legends and securities laws notices
  • Table of contents
  • Summary
  • Use of proceeds
  • Investment Program
  • Risk factors
  • Description of the management company and managers
  • Discussion of fees (Management fees, Performance fees)
  • Manner of valuing the investments
  • Discussion of conflicts of interest
  • Discussion of brokerage
  • Discussion of litigation of the investment manager
  • Discussion of financial statements of the fund
  • A summary of the LPA or Operating Agreement
  • Discussion of service providers
  • Tax disclosures
  • ERISA disclosures
  • Other notices (privacy notice, definition of investors qualified to invest, disclosure on the lack of transferability, etc.)

Limited Partnership Agreement

Like the PPM, each law firm has a different way to draft the LPA. For instance, some law firms will craft a lengthy definition section at the very beginning, other law firms will have definitions attached as an appendix, other firms will define specific terms throughout the document. A very rough guideline of the items which are in the LPA include:

  • Coverpage
  • Table of contents
  • Preamble
  • Defintions
  • Information on formation (business office, registered agent, length of fund, etc.)
  • Capitalization structure (initially and on a going-forward basis)
  • Manner of allocation of profits and losses (including the various tax allocation provisions)
  • Manner of distributions and withdrawals
  • Rights and duties of the management company
  • Rights and duties of the investors
  • Information on accounting, books and records
  • Transfer rights
  • Dissolution of the partnership; winding up
  • Manner of final distributions
  • Grant of power of attorney
  • Miscellaneous provisions (headings, amendments, applicable law, jurisdiction)

Subscription Documents

The subscription documents from one firm to another may differ fairly substantially. Some firms have separate subscription documents for individual investors and for institutional investors. Some firms include the necessary representations with the actual subscription agreement. The basic information included in the subscription documents includes:

  • Coverpage with certain legal disclaimers
  • Directions on how to complete the subscription documents
  • Subscription agreement (including certain acknowledgements, representations and warranties)
  • Investor suitability questions (may be embedded in the subscription agreement) – generally accredited investor, qualified client, or qualified purchaser status
  • LPA investor signature page

If a fund accepts non-accredited investors, the manager will need to make sure that the non-accredited investor meets certain that the non-accredited investor, together if applicable with their purchaser representative, is sufficiently sophisticated to understand the risks of making an investment in the fund. These supplemental representations can be made either in the subscription documents or in a supplement to the subscription documents.