investment

FINRA and SEC Announce Tick Size Pilot Program

 

On October 3, 2016, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”)’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy issued an Investor Alert announcing a new National Market System (NMS) Plan that will implement a Tick Size Pilot Program (the “Pilot”) that will widen the minimum quoting and trading increment – sometimes called the “tick size” – for some small capitalization stocks. The goal of the Pilot is to study the effect of tick size on liquidity and trading of small capitalization stocks.

The Pilot has been implemented pursuant to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act which, among other things, directed the SEC to conduct a study and report to Congress on how decimalization affected the number of initial public offerings, and the liquidity and trading of securities of smaller capitalization companies.

Under the Pilot, the tick size will be widened from a penny ($0.01) to a nickel ($0.05) for specified securities listed on national securities exchanges (“Pilot Securities”). For some Pilot Securities, only quoting will need to occur in $0.05 increments, while for others, both quoting and trading generally will need to occur in increments of a nickel.

The Pilot will include a specified subset of the exchange-listed stocks of companies that have $3 billion or less in market capitalization, an average daily trading volume of one million shares or less and a volume-weighted average price of at least $2.00 for every trading day. There will be a control group of approximately 1,400 securities and three test groups, each with approximately 400 securities selected by a stratified sampling.

The Plot will run for a two-year period that will commence on October 3, 2016.

The data collected from the Pilot will be used by the SEC, national securities exchanges and FINRA to assess whether wider tick sizes enhance the market quality of these stocks for the benefit of issuers and investors—such as less volatility and increased liquidity.

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Agencies Publish Study on Banking Activities and Investments under Dodd-Frank

 

On September 8, 2016, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) released a report detailing activities and investments that banking entities may engage in under state and federal law.

Pursuant to section 620 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank), which requires the trio of federal banking agencies to conduct the study and report their findings to Congress, the report considers financial, operational, managerial and reputational risks associated with the permissible activities or investments and how banking entities work to mitigate those risks.

Each agency also offers specific recommendations regarding whether an activity or investment could harm the overall safety and soundness of the banking entity or broader financial system and any additional restrictions necessary to curb any such potential risks. Press release. Report.

New Jersey Appellate Court Clarifies Definition of Compensation under Advisers Act

 

On August 12, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the decision of the District Court of New Jersey and held in United States v. Everett C. Miller that the defendant was an “investment adviser” within the meaning of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”), notwithstanding defendant’s arguments that he did receive “compensation” and was not engaged “in the business” of acting as an investment adviser.

The Advisers Act does not explicitly define “compensation” or what constitutes being engaged “in the business.”  Consequently, the Court of Appeals based its decision on a 1987 Release issued by the Staff of the Securities and Exchange Commission (Investment Advisers Release No. 1092) which states, in part: “The Staff considers a person to be ‘in the business’ of providing advice if the person . . . holds himself out as an investment adviser or as one who provides investment advice.” In reaching its decision that the defendant provided advice for “compensation,” the Court recognized that the Advisers Act also does not define “compensation.”  The Court again cited the SEC Release which defines compensation as “any economic benefit, whether in the form of an advisory fee or some other fee relating to the total services, rendered, commissions, or some combination of the foregoing . . .” and concluded that: “It is not necessary that an investor pay a discrete fee specifically earmarked as payment for investment advice.”  Opinion.