SEC

SEC Announces Three New Rulemakings

 

On September 26, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced three significant rulemakings. Summarized in a Public Statement by Chairman Jay Clayton, they are designed to achieve the following objectives.

  • The Modernization of the Approval Framework for ETFs. This new rule: “(1) sets forth a clear and consistent framework that will allow exchange-traded funds (ETFs) meeting certain standardized conditions to come to market without obtaining an individualized exemptive order, and (2) amends certain forms to enhance disclosures for investors.”
  • The Expansion of “Testing-the-Waters” Communications to All Issuers. This new rule: “will extend to all issuers the flexibility provided by the JOBS Act to communicate with institutional investors about potential IPOs and other registered offerings to better gauge market interest.”
  • The Enhancement of the Regulation of the OTC Markets. These proposed amendments to the rules governing the publication of quotations for over-the-counter (OTC) securities are “designed to better protect investors from fraud and manipulation, while at the same time facilitating more efficient OTC trading in certain well-capitalized issuers.”

Chairman Clayton emphasized that these rulemakings “share common themes.” Foremost, they “modernize decades-old regulations . . . taking account of our experience, advances in communications technology and changes in the operation of our markets.” Significantly, these “common sense actions better align our regulations with the preferences and investor protection interests of our long-term Main Street investors, while also facilitating capital formation.”

SEC Adopts New Rules and Amendments under Title VII of Dodd-Frank

 

On September 19, the SEC adopted new rules and amendments under Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act establishing recordkeeping and reporting requirements for security-based swap dealers and major security-based swap participants, and amending those requirements for broker-dealers.  The new rules aim to allow the SEC to better monitor compliance and reduce risk to the market. Release.

’40 Act Leeway for Mortgage REITS and Others

The SEC Investment Management Division published a no-action letter on August 15 addressed to Redwood Trust that provides a certain degree of Section 3(c)(5)(C) compliance leeway for mortgage REITs and mortgage bankers. The Redwood letter is a recognition by the staff that the ebb and flow of mortgage loans into and out of a mortgage banking business, and the retention of cash proceeds from time to time, is an integral part of the business, as is the retention of the right to service loans to facilitate both loan sales and securitizations.

Specifically, the staff concluded that there would be no objection to Redwood treating certain MSRs and cash proceeds in the manner described below for purposes of the Section 3(c)(5)(C) exclusion from the registration requirements of the Investment Company Act of 1940. Redwood Trust No-Action Letter – 2019

  • MSRs created when mortgage loans are sold or securitized can be treated as “qualifying interests” under Section 3(c)(5)(C), and
  • Cash proceeds from mortgage principal amortizations, interest payments and payoffs in connection with real estate-related assets, as well as from the sale of such assets, including to securitization trusts, can retain the characterization of the assets from which the cash proceeds were derived for purposes of Section 3(c)(5)(C), subject to the time limitations indicated in the letter; e.g. sell whole loans and treat the cash proceeds of the sale as “qualifying interests” (subject to such time limitations).

As we stated in our April 12, 2019, letter to the SEC staff on behalf of Redwood, these cash proceeds are “integral parts of and directly related to and arising from Redwood’s mortgage banking activities” and, likewise, created MSRs “are acquired as a direct result of Redwood’s mortgage banking activities”. Our letter references the staff’s Great Ajax no-action letter of February 12, 2018, in which the staff said that it “would be willing to entertain other no-action requests to treat as qualifying interests certain other mortgage-related assets if they are acquired by an issuer as a direct result of the issuer being engaged in the business of purchasing or otherwise acquiring whole mortgage loans (e.g., certain “A-Notes” and servicing rights)”. Orrick Letter to SEC, April 12, 2019

(Redwood also obtained a no-action letter in 2017 relating to the treatment of credit risk transfer securities as “real estate-type interests” under Section 3(c)(5)(C). In the Orrick letter to the staff, we noted, among other things, that credit risk transfer securities share similar characteristics with, and have the same economic substance as, agency partial pool certificates, which are treated as “real estate-type interests” under Section 3(c)(5)(C). In its letter, the staff recognized the similarities between credit risk transfer securities and agency partial pool certificates and concluded that the credit risk transfer securities described could be treated as “real estate-type interests”.  Redwood Trust No-Action Letter – 2017 ; Orrick Letter to SEC, September 5, 2017)

SEC Staff Observation from Examinations of Investment Advisers

 

On July 23, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) published a Risk Alert on its “Observations from Examinations of Investment Advisers: Compliance, Supervision, and Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest.” The purpose of this Risk Alert is to raise awareness of certain compliance issues that OCIE observed by sharing the Staff’s observations from these examinations. The Risk Alert provides a good summary of the Staff’s observations across a broad range of compliance topics, but emphasized its specific observations relating to employees or prospective employees with disciplinary histories. As stated by the Staff: “the key takeaway is that OCIE encourages advisers, when designing and implementing their compliance and supervision frameworks, to consider the risks presented by hiring and employing supervised persons with disciplinary histories and adopt policies and procedures to address those risks.” Risk Alert.

SEC Adopts Rules and Interpretations to Enhance Protections and Preserve Choice for Retail Investors in Their Relationships with Financial Professionals

 

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted and clarified a number of rules intended to improve the relationships between retail investors, investor advisers and broker-investors, while also maintaining retail investors’ access to investment services and products. Under Regulation Best Interest, broker-dealers must act in the best interest of a retail customer when recommending any securities transaction or investment strategy. The Form CRS Relationship Summary requires registered investment advisers and broker-dealers to provide retail investors with easily comprehensible information about their relationship with their financial professional. Lastly, the SEC clarified investment advisers’ fiduciary duties and the activities that trigger a broker-dealer to be considered an investor adviser under the Advisers Act. Press Release. For further detail on the subject, read an analysis from Orrick’s Securities Litigation team here.

SEC Obtains Emergency Order Halting Alleged Diamond-Related ICO Scheme Targeting Hundreds of Investors

 

On May 21, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it obtained a court order halting an ongoing $30 million Ponzi Scheme. The SEC complaint charged a cryptocurrency business and its principal with using investor funds to run a Ponzi Scheme. Release.

SEC Modifies Timing for Filing of Non-Public Form N-PORT Data

 

On February 27, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) modified the submission deadlines for registered investment companies filing non-public monthly reports on Form N-PORT. Form N-PORT is a new form for reporting both public and non-public fund portfolio holdings to the Commission in a structured data format. As a result of today’s changes, rather than filing non-public monthly reports with the Commission within 30 days after each month-end, funds will be required to maintain the relevant information in their records and file all three monthly reports with the Commission no later than 60 days after the end of each fiscal quarter. Release.