Conflicts of Interest Questionnaires: Why Fund Managers Need Them, and What They Should Cover (Part One of Two)

A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or a firm has an incentive to serve one interest at the expense of another interest or obligation. The source of these conflicts is often an investment adviser’s own employees. For example, if an employee’s close relative owns a company in which the adviser invests client funds, it could create a conflict of interest. Investment advisers owe a fiduciary duty to their clients that obligates them to either eliminate any conflicts of interest or mitigate and disclose them. To fulfill this duty, advisers must know about any existing or potential conflicts of interest created by employees’ outside business activities or relationships. Advisers can use conflicts of interest questionnaires to gather information from employees on common situations and relationships that may give rise to a conflict. This two-part series details the fundamentals of conflicts of interest questionnaires. This first article explains why investment advisers should use conflicts of interest questionnaires and describes the areas the questionnaires should cover. The second article will discuss how to use conflicts questionnaires, including who should be required to complete them, when they should be completed and how advisers should use the information gathered on these forms. See “Conflicts Remain an Overarching Concern for the SEC’s Asset Management Unit” (Mar. 12, 2015); and “Identifying and Addressing the Primary Conflicts of Interest in the Hedge Fund Management Business” (Jan. 17, 2013).

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