The SEC has effectively extended its public comment deadline for a number of proposed rules to May 1, adding a week to the previous extension of April 24. Both extensions were made in response to the changes following the advent of the coronavirus, which has led to firm disruptions. Whether the latest extension is enough however, is in question, as one commissioner called for an even longer period.
Ending speculation over whether the SEC would extend its COVID-19 regulatory relief to postponing the June 30 compliance dates for Form CRS and Regulation Best Interest, two key parts of the agency’s recently passed Standards of Conduct package, Chairman Jay Clayton gave a firm no.
When is a name not a name? When it is a misnomer, of course, that is, when the name does not accurately reflect the identity of that which it purportedly identifies. For the SEC, that means requiring that funds have names that do not mislead investors, a requirement that it believes may need to be tweaked to stay current with the times.
When the SEC proposed its new Advertising Rule back in November, there was much applause. Some suggestions for improvement were made, but by and large, the Rule was welcomed by the asset management community. After all, the Rule had not been significantly updated since 1961, and its principles-based approach, as opposed to specific prescriptive prohibitions, appeared to be generally well received. Now, however, a significant voice is questioning whether that approach is correct.
The SEC, in a move that would ease access to capital, on March 4 proposed rule amendments to its exempt offering framework that would, among other things, raise the offering limit under a number of existing regulations, and could streamline the exempt offering process. The proposal will be open for public comment for 60 days, before being considered for adoption.
SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce periodically notes that she has been called the “crypto mom” for her advocacy of a more welcoming approach from the SEC in the area of digital networks and cryptocurrencies. She is likely to only enhance her credibility in that area following her recent proposal to create a safe harbor in agency rules that would allow new digital networks greater freedom to develop and operate in their first three years.
Two key industry players – the Investment Adviser Association and the Investment Company Institute – are taking issue with key parts of the SEC’s proposed rule amendments that would regulate how proxy advisory firms provide services to advisory firms, investment companies and others. In recent comment letters to the agency, both found fault in key provisions of the proposal.
When the SEC unveiled its proposed Advertising Rule in November, it was roundly welcomed by the asset management industry. The proposal was the first reform of the existing Rule in more than half a century, and the principles-based approach it took to advertising regulation made more sense to many than the prescriptive prohibitions of the existing Rule. Now, with a few months to digest and review the proposed Rule, the industry continues to welcome it, but also wants some changes made.
The Standards of Conduct package did not receive the warmest welcome by many in the asset management community when it was adopted last year. Perhaps that was to be expected in that any solution to an issue that has been debated for years – raising the standard of conduct of broker-dealers to a higher level – could not please everyone and would also be likely to create some confusion.
Every year brings new developments and challenges, but as far as investment advisers and funds go, 2020 may pack quite a wallop. Aside from adoption of a final Advertising Rule, Proxy Advisory Firm Rule and others, expect the SEC to move forward with proposing a revamped Custody Rule and possibly more self-reporting initiatives along the model of the concluded Share Class Disclosure Initiative. As if that isn’t enough, fund managers will need to ensure their funds comply with the requirements of the recently adopted ETF and Liquidity Risk Management Rules.