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Advisers With Wrap Fee Programs Must Provide Clear Information About Trading Away to Participating Advisers and Clients

Wrap fee programs remain an enforcement priority for the SEC, which is concerned with whether the programs are suitable for clients, whether sponsors adequately disclose conflicts of interest and whether advisers are achieving best execution for participants. An investment adviser that sponsors wrap fee programs disclosed that managers in its programs may trade away or execute trades at additional cost to clients, and it also conducted periodic reviews of trading away. In a recently settled enforcement proceeding, however, the SEC claimed that the adviser failed to consider a manager’s trading away practices prior to including it in a program and failed to provide the information it obtained about trading away to advisers that recommended its programs to their own clients, which made it impossible for those advisers to determine whether they were achieving best execution for those clients. This article details the alleged shortcomings in the adviser’s compliance policies and procedures, along with the terms of the settlement order. For recent SEC interest in wrap fee programs, see “OCIE Risk Alert Warns of Six Most Frequent Fee and Expense Compliance Issues” (May 3, 2018); “Former SEC Examiners Provide Perspective on 2018 OCIE Examination Priorities” (Apr. 5, 2018); and “Retail Investors Top List of OCIE 2018 Exam Priorities” (Mar. 8, 2018).

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