SEC Amends Rules Applicable to Investment Adviser Marketing
– Niccolo Barber, Rimon Law
On December 22, 2020, the SEC amended the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, with respect to advertisements and payments to solicitors by investment advisers. The amendments create a single rule (“Rule”) that supplants the existing advertising and cash solicitation rules, marking the first time in more than 40 years the SEC has updated its rules governing adviser marketing.
Among the many amendments, the Rule promulgates new requirements relating to an adviser’s use of performance results in advertising materials. Advisers should keep the following points in mind moving forward:
• Gross vs. Net Performance Results. The Rule prohibits any presentation of gross performance in adviser advertisements unless the advertisement equally presents net performance figures. This restriction is predicated on the SEC’s concern that displays advertising of gross performance without any additional context, could create the impression that investors received the full amount of the presented returns shown. Accordingly, advisers should clearly indicate when performance results are portrayed on a gross basis. In addition, to facilitate investors’ understanding of the advertised performance results, net performance must be presented with at least equal prominence to gross performance results in a format designed to facilitate comparison between them.
• Hypothetical Performance. Advisers sometimes include hypothetical performance in their advertisements, such as model performance, back-tested performance, and targeted and projected performance returns. Although the Rule does not prohibit the use of hypothetical performance in advertising materials, it does prescribe significant conditions to its use based on the SEC’s belief that presentations of hypothetical performance pose a high risk of misleading investors. Specifically, an adviser may not utilize hypothetical results unless it: (i) has adopted and implemented policies and procedures reasonably designed to ensure the hypothetical performance is relevant to the likely financial situation and investment objectives of the intended audience; (ii) provides sufficient information to enable the intended audience to understand the criteria used and the assumptions made in calculating the advertised hypothetical performance; and (iii) provides sufficient information to enable the intended audience to understand the risks and limitations of using hypothetical performance in making an investment decisions.
Of course, the above points are a high-level overview of the detailed requirements promulgated under the Rule. To read more about the Rule you can read my article entitled SEC Finalizes Amendments to Investment Adviser Advertising Rules and to read the full text of the Rule itself or download your own copy, check out SEC Final Rule – Investment Adviser Marketing. Should you have any questions about the Rule and its implications act on your advertising materials, contact me, Nicco Barber, or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.