In its final Private Fund Adviser Rules adopted last year, the SEC dropped one of the more controversial proposed rules—the proposal to prohibit contractual exculpation or indemnification provisions that would shield or indemnify the adviser in matters involving the adviser’s negligence or breach of fiduciary duty.  On its face, this was a concession to the fund management industry. However, the Rule’s Adopting Release asserted that the SEC believed the provision was not needed because the antifraud provisions of the Advisers Act already prohibited certain provisions that would be covered by the proposal. Because the SEC’s interpretation was based on current law (there is no grandfathering or “implementation date” in the future), we predict that contractual indemnification or exculpation provisions will remain firmly in the SEC’s sights for 2024. SEC exams and enforcement proceedings are likely to focus on these provisions, and they may be implicated in GP/LP disputes as well.

Participants in the syndicated loan markets may have been relieved last month when the SEC declined to file the amicus brief requested by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Kirschner v. JP Morgan Chase Bank. In an unusual turn of events, the SEC choose not to weigh in on whether the syndicated term loans at issue are securities. In a July 18, 2023 letter to the court, the SEC explained that “despite the best efforts to respond to the court’s request, the Staff was not in a position to file a brief on behalf of the Commission.” Id. Whatever the reason, the SEC’s decision leaves the Second Circuit panel without the agency’s views, and to speculate over the agency’s reasons for its clearly very deliberate decision not to act.

As IPOs and other traditional paths to liquidity for private assets have become more challenging, GP-led secondary transactions have emerged as a powerful and popular tool across closed-end private funds, leading to explosive growth over the last five years. And while macro factors influence their prevalence year over year, these transactions remain broadly popular across the various stakeholders in these transactions, facilitating different goals for different parties: 

  • Existing Investors (LPs):  Near-term liquidity in a liquidity-constrained market, typically with an option to continue participation if desired
  • New Investors (Buyers):  Access to a mature portfolio with unrealized upside
  • Fund Adviser (GP):  Extended duration to capture future upside of well-performing assets, additional capital to support existing portfolio, and reset economics aligning with longer-term outlook

On March 15, 2023 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) released its proposal to amend Regulation S-P: Privacy of Consumer Financial Information and Safeguarding Customer Information, while simultaneously issuing two additional cybersecurity-related rule proposals[1] and re-opening the comment period for its previously-proposed cybersecurity risk management rule released in February 2022.[2] This set of sweeping reforms makes it clear, if not already, that the SEC is serious about implementing comprehensive cybersecurity and privacy standards across its regulated entity population—including investment advisers.   

The SEC last month proposed rules under the Advisers Act indicating a dramatic shift in how the SEC intends to reduce conflicts of interest involving private fund managers and their investors. As we previously noted in the context of increased disclosure obligations, the SEC’s recent approach previews a sea change redefining the relationship between private fund managers and their investors. For decades, the SEC has sought to address potential conflicts through a combination of disclosure and informed consent, in light of the sophisticated nature of private fund limited partners. However, the SEC’s proposal now pivots from that approach, concluding that certain fund manager practices are inherently conflicted and therefore in some cases necessitate that the fund manager undertake specific actions, or in other cases must be flatly prohibited. As the SEC put it in their Proposing Release, “We have observed certain industry practices over the past decade that have persisted despite our enforcement actions and that disclosure alone will not adequately address.”

On March 30, 2022, the Division of Examinations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced its examination priorities for fiscal year 2022. The annual publication of the Division’s examination priorities is intended to align with the Division’s four pillars of promoting and improving compliance, preventing fraud, monitoring

On October 7th, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced the rescheduled date of its 2020 national compliance outreach seminar for investment companies and investment advisers.  This program is intended to help Chief Compliance Officers and other senior personnel at investment companies and investment advisory firms enhance their compliance programs.  The SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE), Division of Investment Management (IM), and the Asset Management Unit (AMU) of the Division of Enforcement jointly sponsor the compliance outreach program.  The national seminar will be held virtually on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19th, 2020 via a live webcast from the SEC’s Washington, D.C., headquarters from noon until 4:50 p.m. EST.

In a cautionary tale about the career-limiting risks of SEC sanctions, a private fund adviser and its owner were found to have misused over $1 million of fund assets, resulting in a bar from the investment industry as well as a civil penalty.

Monsoon Capital, LLC (Monsoon) is an SEC-registered investment adviser founded and owned by Gautam Prakash. Among Monsoon’s clients is Monsoon Infrastructure & Realty Co-Invest, L.P. (MIRC), a private fund focused on infrastructure investments in India.

The SEC has been active in the private equity space recently after being relatively quiet for some time. A recent enforcement action serves as a reminder for fund sponsors that regulators are continuing to look at fund sponsors’ practices relating to “operating partners,” particularly in the context of disclosures to limited partners.