On Monday the SEC announced its enforcement results for FY 2020, accompanied by a report from the Director of its Division of Enforcement. This report confirms what we have seen over the past year for private fund managers: although OCIE has been more active on adviser examinations, we’ve seen a bit less enforcement activity. Yet in spite of the headwinds posed by the global pandemic, the Commission brought 715 enforcement actions in FY 2020, representing only a 17% decrease from FY 2019. It also obtained record-breaking monetary remedies with total penalties and disgorgement reaching $4.68 billion, an 8% increase from 2019.

The SEC issued an order imposing sanctions against private equity adviser Rialto Capital Management, LLC (“Rialto”) for violations of the Advisors Act relating to expense allocation. The settlement addressed Rialto’s allocation of expenses for certain “third-party tasks” performed by in-house employees, which was allowed under the relevant fund documents with consent of the limited partner advisory committee (LPAC). Yet the SEC took issue with the practice of fully allocating certain expenses to the funds rather than proportionately to co-investors, as well as the manner in which the expenses were disclosed to the LPAC for approval.

The DC Circuit recently released an opinion addressing the SEC’s administrative findings against registered investment adviser The Robare Group (TRG) for failure to disclose alleged conflicts of interest. Although the court affirmed the SEC’s finding of a violation of Section 206(2) of the Advisers Act, it held that Commission could not find willful violations under Section 207 based on the same negligent conduct.

The court’s analysis of 206(2) of the Advisers Act, the key negligence-based antifraud provision for investment advisers, is instructive. The court affirmed that, as a fiduciary to its clients, the adviser was required to make full and fair disclosure of all material facts, including conflicts of interest.