New rules in Europe concerning sustainability-related disclosures in the financial sector will come into force from March 2021. Our UK regulatory specialists summarize the key aspects of the new ESG rules which will impact a wide range of financial services participants, including non-EU (i.e. U.S. fund managers) that market funds in the EEA.
Just as U.S. regulators are wrestling with the question of how to regulate cryptocurrencies and digital assets, as reported here, the same questions are being asked in the UK. Some have been answered with refreshing clarity; some remain much more opaque.
As with any new technology or asset, there are different spheres of legal and regulatory influence to consider. At the most basic, what is it? (a.k.a. Can I steal it? And can I recover it?). The next level is typically regulatory – Who regulates it? How it is regulated? How are the public and markets protected?
How any jurisdiction answers these questions will have a material impact on the way private firms and others within the asset management industry deal with, and consider potential investments in, crypto assets. Continue Reading
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently approved amendments to the definition of an accredited investor found in Rule 501(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 that will facilitate the ability of funds and other issuers to raise capital through private placements. Several commenters on the SEC’s proposed rule cautioned that a rise in civil litigation and regulatory actions would likely result from what would be generally perceived as a broadening of the accredited investor standard. Noting these concerns, the SEC’s adopting release cited a recently completed analysis by the agency’s staff of publicly available information on SEC litigation against Regulation D issuers which found that there were relatively few SEC civil court cases involving private placements over the 2009-2019 period compared to the total number of private placement filers. Time will reveal which of these arguments will prove to be correct.
Read the full client alert for a full discussion of these new revisions to the accredited investor standard and how they will affect private fund sponsors going forward.
On August 18, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which is the primary regulator and administrator of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), issued a statement on enforcement of the BSA. The requirements of the BSA typically apply to financial institutions, but in certain circumstances the Act applies to nonfinancial businesses and individuals. Continue Reading
A cyber breach can have serious legal, financial, and reputational consequences for a fund sponsor, as described in our previous post. As such, cybersecurity threats must be treated as business risks, not just a potential IT problem. Senior management at fund sponsors should take the lead to ensure that the sponsor is taking appropriate actions to protect itself against cyber risks. There are several steps that senior management can guide the fund sponsor to take to prevent breaches from occurring and to mitigate the impact when they do occur. Continue Reading
Proskauer partner Josh Newville discussed the SEC’s focus on valuation of private fund investments at the recent Securities Enforcement Forum West 2020. The global COVID-19 crisis has added a layer of complexity to the valuation process, requiring special care. As we predicted in our 2020 Top Ten Regulatory and Litigation Risks for Private Funds, ongoing economic uncertainty will likely lead to increased scrutiny on fund managers’ valuation of privately-held portfolio companies from both the SEC and investors. At the recent securities enforcement conference, Josh addressed the following potential risks.
- In light of recent events surrounding tech unicorn IPOs, regulators and investors are likely to take a hard look at all parties involved in unicorn valuations that, in hindsight, may have perhaps been too optimistic.
- Enforcement is also likely to focus on valuation and performance claims, particularly claims regarding performance based on unrealized gains, in marketing materials.
- The SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) will continue to raise questions regarding valuations during exams. OCIE has made clear that it will focus on fund advisers that rely on third-party vendors, including vendors that provide valuation services.
- In light of economic uncertainty, credit funds may be fielding questions about their valuation of credit holdings as defaults, and the risk of defaults, increase.
We have seen the SEC increase its focus on valuation of privately-held portfolio companies recently. The SEC’s increased focus is in line with our prediction made in the Top Ten Regulatory and Litigation Risks for Private Funds in 2020 post from the start of this year, and we expect the trend to continue. The global COVID-19 crisis has added a layer of complexity to the valuation process, which for illiquid assets can be challenging during even calm economic conditions. While some companies have benefited from the changes brought on by COVID-19, the overall market conditions resulting from the crisis have led some to predict an increased likelihood of down rounds and a decrease in expected returns, potentially impacting small portfolio companies and large unicorns alike. In some cases, economic uncertainty already has taken a quantifiable toll on the businesses and prospects of portfolio companies. And the process of estimating fair value remains even more challenging because the full scope of the economic downturn remains as yet unknown. Overly optimistic valuations can lead to inflated expectations of fund investors, as well as regulatory risks if the SEC decides to take a closer look at a particular valuation. Continue Reading