The SEC’s Proposed Custody Rule Changes: An Analysis of the Impact on Hedge Fund Managers

The SEC recently voted to propose changes to the Advisers Act custody rule.  The SEC initiated this action with the intention of providing additional safeguards when an adviser has custody of client assets.  The proposed changes follow a series of recent enforcement actions involving alleged misappropriation or other misuse of client assets.  The proposed changes would primarily impose two new requirements on registered advisers with custody of client assets.  First, those advisers would need to undergo an annual surprise examination by an independent public accountant to verify client assets.  Second, those advisers who are qualified custodians and self custody client assets or use a related person who is a qualified custodian (rather than an “independent” qualified custodian) would need to obtain a written report from an independent public accountant.  The report would include an opinion as to the qualified custodian’s controls regarding the custody of client assets.  While the proposed changes would impact all registered advisers with custody of client assets, the changes would also have unique application to hedge fund managers.  In a guest article, Terrance J. O’Malley and Jessica Forbes, both Partners at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, examine the proposed changes to the custody rule from the perspective of a hedge fund manager.  Their article begins with a brief review of the rule’s history, then examines the current requirements under the rule and finally describes the proposed changes, including those most relevant to hedge fund managers.

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