Use a Preclearance Checklist to Avoid Violating the Pay to Play Rule

In any presidential election year, a fund manager is likely to see an increase in employees’ contributions to various political campaigns. Given the current political climate – coupled with the pandemic, societal unrest and economic turmoil – that increase in donations may be even more dramatic in 2020. As a result, fund managers that have government entity investors, such as public pension funds, must be particularly careful to ensure that employee political contributions do not run afoul of Rule 206(4)‑5 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 – the so-called “pay to play rule” (Rule). The centerpiece of many pay to play compliance policies and procedures is a requirement that employees preclear donations in advance. This article reviews the Rule’s requirements and restrictions, discusses the importance of preclearance and provides a checklist that CCOs can use to approve or deny employee contributions. The article also contains a standalone version of the checklist that can also be downloaded, adapted and used. For a look at the consequences of violating the Rule, see “SEC Continues to Target Pay to Play Violations” (Aug. 30, 2018); “Pay to Play, Revenue Sharing and Wrap Fees Remain on the SEC’s Radar” (Apr. 20, 2017); and “SEC Starts Year With Pay to Play Penalties” (Jan. 28, 2016).

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