Who Should Newly Registered Hedge Fund Managers Designate as the Chief Compliance Officer and How Much Are Chief Compliance Officers Paid?

The Dodd-Frank Act (Dodd-Frank) will require hedge fund managers to appoint a chief compliance officer (CCO) for two reasons – an explicit reason and an implicit reason.  Explicitly, Dodd-Frank will require registration (by July 21, 2011) by hedge fund managers with assets under management in the U.S.: (1) of at least $150 million that manage solely private funds; or (2) between $100 million and $150 million that manage at least one private fund and at least one other type of investment vehicle (for example, a managed account).  Registered hedge fund managers will be subject to SEC Rule 206(4)-7, which requires, among other things, registered investment advisers to “designate” (note: not “hire”) a CCO to administer their compliance policies and procedures.  Implicitly, Dodd-Frank is not only the cause of major regulatory change, but also the effect of a changed regulatory mindset.  Post-Dodd-Frank, there is more regulation – considerably more – and more vigorous enforcement of new and existing regulation.  Much of that regulation applies with equal force to registered and unregistered hedge fund managers.  Most notably, insider trading and anti-fraud rules apply to hedge fund managers regardless of their registration status.  See “How Can Hedge Fund Managers Avoid Insider Trading Violations When Using Expert Networks?  (Part One of Three),” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 4, No. 5 (Feb. 10, 2011).  Recognizing this, even hedge fund managers beneath the relevant AUM thresholds are considering the appointment of a CCO (if they do not already have one).  For hedge fund managers considering the appointment of a CCO – and even for managers that currently have a CCO but are reevaluating how they staff the role – there are three basic approaches: (1) hire a new internal person to serve exclusively as CCO; (2) add the CCO title and duties to the existing portfolio of a current internal person, such as the general counsel (GC), chief operating officer (COO) or chief financial officer (CFO); or (3) outsource the role to a third-party compliance consulting or similar firm.  Which of these approaches makes sense, individually or in combination, depends on the size, strategy, complexity, resources, history and culture of the management company, among other factors.  In short, deciding who to designate as your CCO is a complex decision, and an increasingly important one.  The CCO is often the last bastion before a major compliance or operational failure, and as recent events demonstrate, those sorts of failures typically pose more franchise risk than bad investment calls.  See “Can the Chief Compliance Officer of a Hedge Fund Manager be Terminated for Investigating a Potential Compliance Violation by the Manager's Principal, CEO or CIO?,” Hedge Fund Law Report, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Jan. 14, 2011).  The basic purpose of this article is to identify the pros and cons of each of the three foregoing approaches to designating a CCO.  To do so, this article discusses: what Rule 206(4)-7 specifically requires and does not require; the relative benefits and burdens of hiring a dedicated CCO, assigning the role to an existing person and outsourcing the role; hybrid approaches that incorporate the best elements of outsourcing and internal work; counterintuitive insights with respect to the demand for compliance professionals in the current environment; and – perhaps most importantly to anyone in, considering or hiring for a CCO role – specific compensation numbers for compliance professionals at hedge fund managers, employees at hedge fund managers who add a CCO role to other roles and dedicated CCOs, and the “market” for fees payable to outsourced CCO firms.  (We thank David Claypoole, Founder and President of Parks Legal Placement LLC, for providing this detailed insight on CCO compensation numbers.)

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