How Should Hedge Fund Managers Revise Their Compliance Policies and Procedures and Marketing Practices in Light of the SEC’s New “Pay to Play” Rule?

On July 1, 2010, the SEC adopted Rule 206(4)-5 (Rule) under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Advisers Act).  See “SEC Adopts Pay to Play Rules for Investment Advisers; Total Placement Agency Ban Avoided,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 3, No. 28 (Jul. 15, 2010).  The Rule generally seeks to curtail pay to play practices in the selection by state investment funds, most notably public pension funds, of hedge fund managers and other investment advisers.  Broadly, the Rule does this in three ways: (1) by limiting donations by principals of investment advisers and others with an economic stake in winning public fund business to election campaigns of public officials who may directly or indirectly influence the selection of the adviser to manage a public fund; (2) by prohibiting payments by investment advisers to any person for soliciting government entities for advisory services unless that person is (a) a registered investment adviser subject to the Rule or a registered broker dealer subject to a similar rule to be promulgated by FINRA, or (b) a principal or employee of the adviser; and (3) by revising Advisers Act Rule 204-2 (the recordkeeping rule) to require investment advisers with government clients, or advisers to hedge funds with government entity investors, to maintain records regarding political contributions by the adviser and its covered associates.  According to private fund data provider Preqin, public pension funds represent approximately 17 percent of all institutional hedge fund investors, with an average allocation of six percent of total assets to hedge funds.  The Rule governs the process by which hedge fund managers seek advisory business from this important constituency.  Accordingly, the Rule is of fundamental importance to a wide range of hedge fund managers, for whom the Rule creates a range of new compliance and marketing challenges.  The purpose of this article is to identify and provide guidance with respect to many of those new challenges.  In particular, the descriptive section of this article provides an overview of the mechanics of the Rule.  The analytic section of this article addresses areas in which hedge fund managers should revisit their policies and procedures in light of the Rule, including policies and procedures relating to: political contributions; monitoring contributions; preclearance of contributions; due diligence on placement agents; compliance training with respect to contributions; prescreening of new employees; acquisitions of hedge fund management firms; state, local and fund-specific rules relating to pay to play arrangements; sub-advisers and funds of funds; and mandatory redemptions.  The analytic section also includes a discussion of the implications of the Rule for lobbying by hedge fund managers.  See “Hedge Funds Increasing Lobbying Efforts, Focusing On Shaping Regulations Rather Than Preventing Them,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 2, No. 28 (Jul. 16, 2009).  The article concludes with a note on potential constitutional challenges to the Rule.  One of the more important points made by this article is that while the Rule has garnered significant attention, it is just part of a patchwork of federal, state, local and fund-specific rules governing the process by which hedge fund managers solicit investment advisory business from government entities.

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