Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

SEC Releases Guidance on Investment Advisers’ Proxy Voting Responsibilities

 

On August 21, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) provided guidance for investment advisers in fulfilling their proxy voting responsibilities. The Commission also issued an interpretation that proxy voting advice provided by proxy advisory firms generally constitutes a “solicitation” under the federal proxy rules. 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 New Rules Affecting Security-Based Swap Dealers and Major Security-Based Swap Participants

 

On June 21, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted new rules and rule amendments to establish capital, margin and segregation requirements under Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act. These rules largely aim to increase the risk-mitigation practices of security-based swap dealers and major security-based swap participants. Release.

SEC to Allow Issuers to File Draft Initial Registration Statements on a Nonpublic Basis

 

On June 29, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC“) announced that it would begin to allow issuers to file draft initial registration statements under the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act“) on a nonpublic basis. Any company, foreign or domestic, will be allowed to submit registration statements for nonpublic review, similar to the benefit granted to emerging growth companies under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS) as long as it confirms in a cover letter that it will publicly file its registration statement at least 15 days prior to any road show or, in the absence thereof, at least 15 days prior to the requested effective date of its registration statement. The SEC also announced that it would begin to accept draft registration statements submitted prior to the end of the 12th month following the effective date of an issuer’s initial Securities Act registration statement, or its registration statement under Section 12(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, for nonpublic review so long as the issuer confirms in a cover letter that it will publicly file its registration statement and nonpublic draft submission on EDGAR at least 48 hours prior to any requested effective time and date. Report. Press Release.

Public Comments Solicited From Retail Investors and Other Interested Parties on Standards of Conduct for Investment Advisers and Broker-Dealers

 

On June 1, 2017, Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC“) Chairman Jay Clayton issued a statement (the “Statement“) soliciting public comments from retail investors and other interested parties on standards of conduct for investment advisers and broker-dealers. The Statement was, in part, in response to the announcement by the Department of Labor that it intends to issue a Request for Information regarding various aspects of its fiduciary rule and its desire to engage with the SEC as each agency pursues its own ongoing analysis of these standards.

The Statement sets forth an extensive, detailed list of questions and issues on which comments are requested. To facilitate the SEC’s assessment of the issues, the Statement announced that a webform and email box are now available for members of the public to make their views on these issues known in advance of any future SEC action.

Fee Rate Advisory #3 for Fiscal Year 2017

 

On May 31, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission“) announced that starting July 4, 2017, the fee rates applicable to most securities transactions will be set at $23.10 per million dollars. Consequently, each self-regulatory organization will continue to pay the Commission a rate of $21.80 per million for covered sales occurring on charge dates through July 3, 2017, and a rate of $23.10 per million for covered sales occurring on charge dates on or after July 4, 2017. Release. Rule.

SEC Adopts Jobs Act Amendments

 

On April 5, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC“) announced that it has adopted amendments to increase the amount of money companies can raise through crowdfunding to adjust for inflation. It also approved amendments that adjust for inflation a threshold used to determine eligibility for benefits offered to “emerging growth companies” (“EGCs“) under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act.

The SEC is required to make inflation adjustments to certain JOBS Act rules at least once every five years after it was enacted on April 5, 2012. In addition to the inflation adjustments, the SEC adopted technical amendments to conform several rules and forms to amendments made to the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act“) and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act“) by Title I of the JOBS Act. The Commission approved the new thresholds on March 31. They will become effective when they are published in the Federal Register.

The Commission provided a helpful chart that sets out the inflation-adjusted amounts for the maximum amount of offerings and investment limits, specifically: (i) the maximum aggregate amount an issuer can sell in a 12-month period; (ii) the threshold for assessing an investor’s annual income or net worth to determine investment limits; (iii) the lower threshold of Regulation Crowdfunding securities permitted to be sold to an investor if annual income or net worth is less than the adjusted thresholds; (iv) the maximum amount that can be sold to an investor under Regulation Crowdfunding in a 12-month period; and (v) the inflation-adjusted amounts for determining financial statement requirements.

Also, pursuant to sections of the Securities Act and the Exchange Act added by the JOBS Act, which define the term “emerging growth company,” every five years the Commission is directed to index the annual gross revenue amount used to determine EGC status to inflation. To carry out this statutory directive, the SEC has adopted amendments to Securities Act Rule 405 and Exchange Act Rule 12b-2 to include a definition for EGC that reflects an inflation-adjusted annual gross revenue threshold. Press Release.

SEC Adopts T+2 Settlement Cycle for Securities Transactions

 

On March 22, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted an amendment to Rule 15c6‑1(a), shortening the standard settlement cycle for most broker-dealer securities transactions by one business day, beginning on September 5, 2017. The amended rules shorten the settlement cycle from three business days (T+3) to two business days (T+2). The purpose of the amended rule is to enhance efficiency, reduce risk and ensure coordinated and expeditious transition by market participants to a shortened standard settlement cycle. Release.