Preference for Investing in Proprietary Hedge Funds Must Be Fully Disclosed by Investment Banks to Avoid Conflicts

The SEC and CFTC recently announced the settlement of enforcement proceedings involving an investment bank and affiliated investment adviser that allegedly failed to disclose to clients various conflicts of interest arising out of their management of client funds. Although the respondents disclosed that client funds were invested in proprietary products, such as proprietary mutual funds and hedge funds, they allegedly failed to disclose that they preferred to invest in such products. In addition, the SEC and CFTC found that the bank and investment adviser failed to disclose certain other conflicts, including the bank’s preference to add to its private account platform hedge fund managers willing to pay placement fees, or “retrocessions,” to an affiliate, as well as the existence of lower-fee classes of certain proprietary funds available to investors. This article summarizes the business practices that gave rise to the enforcement proceedings, the specific violations alleged and the outcome of each proceeding. The SEC has made conflicts of interest a top enforcement priority in recent years, although until now the CFTC has been less vocal on that front. See “SEC’s Rozenblit Discusses Operations and Priorities of the Private Funds Unit” (Sep. 24, 2015); and “Conflicts Remain an Overarching Concern for the SEC’s Asset Management Unit” (Mar. 12, 2015).

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