privately-held portfolio companies

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

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.