On June 14, 2024, the SEC announced an enforcement action settlement with a Pennsylvania-based hedge fund manager for violating the Marketing Rule under the Investment Advisers Act. The SEC found that the adviser had misled investors by advertising a hedge fund’s investment performance based on the investment performance of a

As we reach the midpoint of 2024, the SEC’s enforcement actions continue to shape the private funds industry. From the continuing off-channel recordkeeping sweep to heightened scrutiny on AI claims, fiduciary obligations of fund managers, and insider trading, the SEC is as vigilant as ever. Compounding these efforts are significant

The SEC’s recent settlement involving a “pay-to-play” rule violation by a private equity firm is a timely reminder for fund managers, especially with the November elections approaching. 

As a refresher, Rule 206(4)-5 of the Investment Advisers Act – known as the “pay to play” rule – prohibits investment advisers from receiving compensation for providing advisory services to state and municipal entities for two years after the adviser or one of its “covered associates” makes certain political contribution to candidates for public office. Note that the SEC Enforcement Division staff periodically reviews public campaign contribution reports (which are publicly available online) to identify donations by individuals associated with investment advisers.

In response to rising geopolitical tensions – from the Middle East to the Taiwan Strait to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine –the Biden Administration is increasingly using economic incentives and sanctions to assist the United States’ foreign policy objectives or mitigate the risk of increased conflict.

Hope for a resurgence during 2024 in Venture Capital fundraising, investment, and returns was strong at the beginning of this year, with optimism fueled by the recovery in 2023 of U.S. stock markets (lead by the performance of large tech companies) and anticipation about how AI might transform industries. Market observers were optimistic then that U.S. venture investment activity would pick up significantly from 2023 levels, which—based on PitchBook data—had reverted to the lower average level of investment seen during the period of 2018-2020 as compared to the robust levels of activity seen in 2021 and the first half of 2022. This hope was centered in large part on expectations about how the Federal Reserve would begin lowering interest rates. 

Big fund-raising rounds and high valuations have some wondering whether the AI sector is in a bubble in the nature of the dotcom boom. As of this writing, OpenAI is valued at over $80 billion; Amazon added another $2.75 billion to its investment in Anthropic; and even some very early-stage startups, like France-based Mistral AI, have racked up hundreds of millions in venture-capital funding at valuations over a billion dollars. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichar has said AI could be more profound than the invention of electricity or the discovery of fire. Is the hype real?

The SEC’s new and proposed rules on cybersecurity and cyber-incident reporting will have a dual impact on private investment advisers and funds. 

First, the proposal by the SEC will impose cybersecurity related obligations on investment advisers, registered investment companies and business development companies, with a final rule in this sector (the “adviser cybersecurity rule”) expected in April 2024. 

Adviser-led secondary transactions have seen explosive growth over the last five years.  That growth has brought increased regulatory concerns over the conflicts of interests inherent in these transactions and a perceived lack of transparency into this market.  New SEC rules adopted in 2023 will arm regulators with additional tools to identify, exam and investigate market practices.  It is therefore critical for managers running an adviser-led secondary transaction to not only comply with the new rules as they become effective but to structure any such transaction with the SEC’s concerns in mind. 

2023’s excitement for generative artificial intelligence (AI) prompted the SEC to respond on multiple fronts – stump speeches, rulemaking, new exam priorities and sweeps and previewing potential enforcement actions. SEC Chair Gary Gensler raised concerns regarding potential conflicts and investor harm resulting from the proliferation of AI and warned that an AI-caused financial crisis is nearly unavoidable absent regulation. The SEC adopted a number of initiatives in 2023 to respond to these perceived risks. 

ESG continues to be a hot topic for 2024 for investors and regulators alike. The specific concerns investors and regulators have – and what they expect to develop over the coming months – differ, however, across jurisdictions, including because of the different maturity of existing regulation between the EU/UK and the US.