On October 18, 2011, the SEC released a notice of FINRA’s filing of Proposed Rule 5123 (the “Proposed Rule”) which would require FINRA members and associated persons to: 1) provide to investors disclosure documents in connection with private placements prior to sale and 2) file with FINRA such disclosure documents within 15 days after the date of first sale and any subsequent amendments. These proposed changes would significantly affect fund managers who offer or sell their funds that are exempt from registration pursuant to Section 3(c)(1) of the Investment Company Act through third party marketers, nearly all of which are required to be registered as broker-dealers.
The Proposed Rule would require FINRA members and associated persons that offer or sell private placements or participate in the preparation of private placement memoranda (“PPM”), term sheets or other disclosure documents in connection with such private placements, to provide such disclosure documents to investors prior to sale. The disclosure documents must describe the anticipated use of offering proceeds, the amount and type of offering expenses, and the amount and type of offering compensation. Much of this information is currently captured in the Form D filing that most fund managers file with the SEC, but under the Proposed Rule, would go directly to investors in connection with the sale of fund interests.
As a practical matter, this likely means increased scrutiny of hedge fund and other private fund offerings by FINRA, as well as the likelihood that third party marketers that sell on behalf of hedge funds may request greater or more enhanced indemnification from fund managers in the placement agency agreement between the third party marketer and the fund manager. Accordingly, fund managers who use third party marketers to market their funds must keep their fund documents updated, taking into account all changes to fund strategies, material performance issues (to the extent applicable), regulatory changes and management personnel changes, to name a few.
The Proposed Rule would also require each FINRA member and associated person to notice file with FINRA by filing the PPM, term sheet or other disclosure documents no later than 15 days after the date of first sale. In addition, any amendments to such disclosure documents or disclosures required by the Proposed Rule would have to be filed no later than 15 days after such documents are provided to any investor or prospective investor. To the extent these documents are provided to investors, they would also be subject to the strict liability standard of Rule 206(4)-8 under the Investment Advisers Act to which all fund managers are already subject. Accordingly, fund managers must be careful to keep all of their documents current under the materiality standards of state and Federal securities laws.
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