The HFA’s position is outlined in a comment letter submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission on June 6th. The SEC is soliciting comments before implementing regulations, scheduled to be published July 5th this year, which are expected to allow hedge fund management companies to communicate directly with potential investors for the first time in their history. Hedge funds would still be restricted to selling their securities to accredited investors such as individuals with a minimum $1m net worth and qualified institutional investors.
Hedge funds have been banned from soliciting or advertising their private offerings to the general public in exchange for being exempt from having to register their interests or shares with the SEC under Rule 506 of Regulation D. The lack of a clear definition of a solicitation has created confusion about what hedge fund managers can disclose in their marketing materials, at conferences or in the media.
Richard Heller, chairman of the HFA’s Regulatory and Government Advisory Board and author of the letter on behalf of the HFA, says the JOBS Act provision lifting the advertising ban does not weaken existing anti-fraud provisions forbidding people from using false or misleading statements to induce investors to invest in hedge funds. If anything, he wrote, “providing rules to strengthen a manager's decision to accept a subscriber's investment by following the rules to be drafted by the SEC that will for the first time provide a road map for managers to rely upon will, we believe, add further levels of compliance that the Dodd-Frank Act initiated.”
The HFA’s comment letter comes two months after the historic signing of the JOBS Act, which the association praised at the time as being a boon to emerging hedge fund managers. The HFA’s comment letter, says the association’s President, Mitch Ackles, ensures that regulators are able to consider the views of the whole industry, including its service providers, investors and those smaller managers which represent a majority of hedge fund firms.
“In addition to promoting a better understanding of and education about hedge funds, our association’s mission is to give a voice to the concerns of industry participants who may not otherwise have been heard,” says Ackles. “That’s why we include all of our members in developing policy initiatives,” he adds.
A transcript of the letter, addressed to Elizabeth M Murphy at the SEC is provided below:
The HFA believes that amending the rules that relate to capital formation is fundamental to the continued growth of the hedge fund industry and that allowing general solicitations to further that outcome will encourage emerging managers to continue to enter the industry. Further, providing rules to strengthen a manager's decision to accept a subscriber's investment by following the rules to be drafted by the SEC that will, for the first time, provide a road map for Managers to rely upon will, we believe, add further levels of compliance that the Dodd-Frank Act initiated. While Managers have had subscription agreements in place (and internal policies to provide checks and balances for the manager), having rules in place to verify that potential investors are indeed accredited will add further stability to the industry.
The HFA recognises that the SEC may be concerned that opening the door to general solicitation may, to some degree, open the door to people who wish to perpetrate fraud in connection with false or misleading statements to induce investors to invest in hedge funds. We would remind the SEC that the JOBS Act in no way limits Section 10b-5 promulgated under Section 10 of the Exchange Act, nor does it limit Section 17(a)0 of the Securities Act. All of the state securities or "Blue Sky" rules relating to fraud remain unaffected by the JOBS Act and hedge fund managers continue to be subject to the anti-fraud provisions of the Investment Advisers Act.
Lastly, we note and support the changes to Section 3(c)(7) and would hope that the SEC will amend the language of the Investment Company Act as being available only to offerings not involving a public offering to be consistent with the JOBS Act.
The letter is signed by Mitch Ackles, president of the Hedge Fund Association and
Richard Heller, chairman, Regulatory & Government Advisory Board, at the Hedge Fund Association.