- Updated response to FAQ addresses compliance when a pooled investment vehicle fails to distribute its audited financial statements by the applicable deadline due to certain unforeseeable circumstances (Question VI.9). (Modified April 27, 2020)
- New FAQ and response regarding inability to complete surprise examinations (Question IV.7) confirm that the staff would not recommend enforcement action against an adviser for a violation of the Custody Rule if the adviser reasonably believed that its independent public accountant would complete its examination and submit Form ADV-E to file its certificate of accounting by the 120-day deadline, but the accountant failed to do so due to logistical disruptions related to COVID-19, as long as the independent public accountant files such report as soon as practicable, but not later than 45 days after the original due date. (Posted March 30, 2020)
- New FAQ and response regarding custody of certain privately issued securities that are evidenced by physical certificates (Question VII.4) address the temporary inability of custodians to accept physical certificates for a period of time due to COVID-19. The staff confirmed that, if an adviser does not maintain the certificates with a qualified custodian, the staff would not recommend enforcement action under the Custody Rule for the duration of such COVID-19-related closure and until such time as physical certificates can reasonably be placed with a qualified custodian (or similar securities can reasonably be issued in compliance with the privately offered securities exception). The relief is granted on condition that:
(1) the physical certificates can only be used to effect a transfer or to otherwise facilitate a change in beneficial ownership of the security with the prior consent of the issuer or holders of the outstanding securities of the issuer;
(2) ownership of the security is recorded on the books of the issuer or its transfer agent (or person performing similar functions) in the name of the client;
(3) the physical certificates contain a legend restricting transfer;
(4) the physical certificates are appropriately safeguarded by the adviser and can be replaced upon loss or destruction; and
(5) the adviser makes and keeps (in accordance with the terms of Advisers Act Rule 204-2) a record of the custodian’s closure. (Posted April 2, 2020.)
“If the circumstances leading you to seek a PPP loan or other type of financial assistance constitute material facts relating to your advisory relationship with clients, it is the staff’s view that your firm should provide disclosure of, for example, the nature, amounts and effects of such assistance. If, for instance, you require such assistance to pay the salaries of your employees who are primarily responsible for performing advisory functions for your clients, it is the staff’s view that you would need to disclose this fact. In addition, if your firm is experiencing conditions that are reasonably likely to impair its ability to meet contractual commitments to its clients, you may be required to disclose this financial condition in response to Item 18 (Financial Information) of Part 2A of Form ADV (brochure), or as part of Part 2A, Appendix 1 of Form ADV (wrap fee program brochure).” (Posted April 27, 2020)
Specifically, the participating adviser must disclose on its public website (or if it does not have a public website, provide notice as described in the Order) that it is relying on the Order. In the case of clients that primarily or exclusively interact with the participating adviser through the wrap fee program sponsor, the SEC advised the sponsor should also consider posting on its public website notice that the participating adviser is relying on the Order to further inform existing clients regarding the availability of updated Brochure disclosures.
The Order also requires the participating adviser to notify the staff via email that it is relying on the Order. In the staff’s view, a wrap fee program sponsor could promptly notify SEC staff via email on the participating adviser’s behalf that the participating adviser is relying on the Order if, in its email to the staff, the sponsor identifies each individual participating adviser that is relying on the Order and represents that it has authority to submit the email on behalf of those participating advisers. If the participating adviser is also relying on the Order with respect to any clients for which the sponsor is not contractually obligated to deliver the Brochure, the participating adviser would need to separately satisfy this notice condition.
Consistent with the Order, the participating adviser’s Brochure must be delivered to existing clients as soon as practicable, but not later than 45 days after the original due date. The relief provided in the Order is time-limited. Please refer to the Order for details on the period for which relief is available. (Posted April 27, 2020)
Registered Investment Companies
Through several orders (collectively, the IC Order), the SEC provided certain relief for registered investment companies and business development companies (BDCs) affected by COVID‑19. (See the Investment Adviser Alert.)
- Temporary additional funding flexibility relief (including to borrow money from certain affiliates) to obtain short-term funding is available to (1) registered open-end management investment companies other than money market funds (open-end funds) and (2) insurance company separate accounts registered as unit investment trusts (separate accounts), subject to the conditions in the IC Order. The IC Order does not extend the temporary relief for borrowing to closed-end funds.
- Temporary relief for issuers (including investment companies) from the requirement to furnish certain proxy soliciting and other materials in areas where the issuer’s common carrier has suspended delivery service and the other conditions in the IC Order are satisfied.
- Additional temporary flexibility for BDCs to issue and sell senior securities and participate in certain joint enterprises or other joint arrangements that would otherwise be prohibited by Section 57(a)(4) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 and Rule 17d-1 thereunder, subject to the conditions in the IC Order.
- Response to FAQ III.5. confirms the staff’s view that if a closed-end fund’s net asset value declines by more than 10 percent due to market conditions associated with COVID-19, the Division of Investment Management would not object to the fund satisfying Item 34.1 of Form N-2 by filing a prospectus supplement pursuant to Rule 497 under the Securities Act of 1933 (instead of amending its prospectus) if the fund notifies its Disclosure Review and Accounting Office staff reviewer, at least one business day in advance, of the name(s) of the closed-end fund(s) which intend to so file.
- No-Action letter permitting certain affiliates to purchase debt securities from a mutual fund, under the circumstances and subject to the conditions described in the letter.
- No-Action letter permitting certain affiliates to purchase securities from a money market fund, under the circumstances and subject to the conditions described in the letter.
SEC Division of Investment Management contact information for COVID-19 matters (Question I.1).