“Family Office”? What’s In a Name

The Implosion Heard Around the (Financial Markets) World

What Can We Expect from the Regulators?

Robin Powers, Partner, Rimon, P.C.

Archegos Capital Management’s collapse last week, and the resulting losses for several global banks, has and will impact financial markets for the foreseeable future. Regulatory efforts will likely focus on the ever-expanding shadow banking sector and shed light on its transparency (or lack thereof) and the risks. Shadow banking is a blanket term to describe financial activities that take place among non-bank financial institutions outside the scope of federal regulators and generally is defined to include family offices. *

Scrutiny of nonbanks was already a priority for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen after last year’s Treasury market turmoil surrounding hedge funds, dislocations in the repurchase agreement market in 2019, and of course, the GameStop story earlier this year.

The current regulatory examination follows on the heels of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Public Law 111-203) (commonly referred to as Dodd-Frank) which overhauled financial regulation in the aftermath of the 2009 financial crisis. Under the Dodd-Frank legislation, family offices won a special carve-out from Congress that allows them to avoid SEC registration if they serve a single family and don’t give investment advice. Family offices made the case to Congress at the time that they only make conservative investments to preserve family wealth and they do not try to beat the markets. And so, despite managing around $10 billion, Archegos is not directly regulated by the SEC because it manages Hwang’s wealth as a single-family office.

CFTC Commissioner Dan Berkovitz said, “The collapse of Archegos Capital Management and the billions of dollars in losses to investors and other market participants is a vivid demonstration of the havoc that errant large investment vehicles called ‘family offices’ can wreak on our financial markets.” He added, “A ‘family office’ has nothing to do with ordinary families. Rather, it is an investment vehicle used by centimillionaires and billionaires to grow their wealth, reduce their taxes, and plan their estates.”

On March 31st U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen led the first meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) under the new Biden administration. The FSOC was scheduled to discuss hedge fund activity and analysts expect it also addressed Archegos.
As calls for closer scrutiny of the shadow banking sector grow louder, we can expect policymakers to revisit systemically important financial institution designations for nonbank financial entities. Being designated as systemically important would allow for tougher regulation and oversight from the Federal Reserve.

Want to know more.  You can always contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, about any posting on Legal Bytes, but if you want to know more about the content of this post or you need assistance, feel free to reach out to Robin Powers directly or any of the Rimon professionals with whom you regularly work.

* Over 10,000 family offices globally manage an estimated $5-15 trillion in assets – larger than the entire hedge fund industry. The largest family offices operate like sophisticated investment firms, but they don’t have the same oversight. Unlike hedge funds, family offices do not have to disclose their assets, bank relationships, and other operational information.

Investment Adviser Marketing – New Rules for a New World

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.

 

California CPRA – CCPA 2.0

On Election Day in California, voters will not only be determining choices among candidates standing for election, but they will also be deciding the fate of Proposition 24, referred to as the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA).  Proposition 24 is intended to build upon the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) that came into force at the beginning of 2020. Among other things, the CPRA would create a California Privacy Protection Agency, a new regulatory agency that would ultimately take over privacy enforcement responsibility from the Office of the California Attorney General.

Among the areas that would be affected by the CPRA would be a clear ban on discrimination against anyone choosing to ask a company to delete their information and opt-out of marketing communications, stronger rights to prevent data sharing by companies (e.g., cross-context behavioral advertising), clearer mechanisms to enable consumers to correct information that is not accurate and a requirement that companies tell consumers how long they plan to retain the information.

Proposition 24 would also legitimize marketing and promotional schemes that offer consumers a discount or access to benefits in exchange for voluntarily disclosing personally identifiable information (e.g., in the context of rewards or loyalty programs).  Privacy and data protection proponents and opponents have long debated whether consumers should have an option to pay for privacy – viewed as a logical consequence of offering benefits in exchange for information that can be used for marketing and promotional purposes.

Since the CCPA came into force, companies have already been scrambling to comply.  If Proposition 24 passes and CCPA 2.0 comes into force, companies will again have to review and likely revamp their policies and practices to deal with the added new compliance obligations. Just as significantly, a separate California Consumer Privacy Agency would likely end up brining many more enforcement actions since protecting the privacy rights of California consumers will be its only mission.  Proponents of Proposition 24 say that may well be a good thing for California consumers, but they also argue that an agency solely focused on data protection will also mean more clarity, consistency and guidance surrounding some of the nuances of the California requirements.

Stay tuned. Election day is only a week away.

Swiss-US Privacy Shield

In July, we reported that the EU Court had invalidated the viability of the US-EU Privacy Shield (EU Invalidates the Privacy Shield . . BUT Says Contracts May Save the Day!).  A few weeks ago (September 8, 2020), the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) also decided to remove the United States from a list of nations that are considered to be providing “adequate level of data protection.”

Unlike the EU Court’s decision, decision by the Swiss FDPIC does not automatically invalidate the applicability of the Privacy Shield, because the list of countries on or off the list is technically not legally binding. That said, if your company is relying on the Swiss-US Privacy Shield to continue to transfer data from Switzerland to the United States, it would not be prudent to assume these transfers will continue to be viewed as complying with the adequate protection standards under Swiss law.  It seems to make sense to re-assess the risks and start relying on corporate policies and regulations, as well as legally binding contract clauses to ensure they are consistent with Swiss data protection law.

Even when the company policies and contract provisions are properly constructed, there still remains the risk that even these protections may be considered inadequate.  For example, if local authorities have the right to obtain the data without safeguards and legal protections consistent with those required under Swiss regulation, the transfer may be considered in contravention of Swiss law.  Similarly, if the entity to which the data is being transferred is not legally obligated, for any reason, to cooperate with the enforcement requirements that may apply under Swiss law this too creates a problem.  While encryption technology exists that can ensure no personal data can become available in another country, that approach only makes sense for pure storage capability (e.g., cloud based storage) but NOT if the data is intended to be used, displayed or otherwise handled in another nation.

While further guidance and information may ultimately be promulgated by the FDPIC, at present, a review of current procedures and data transfers, the exercise of caution and consideration of implementing additional steps to deal with this development in Switzerland, as with the EU Court decision, seems to be a prudent course of action.

At Rimon Law, our professionals are available to answer question about these developments, so feel free to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work for information about this or any other matters.

EU Invalidates the Privacy Shield . . BUT Says Contracts May Save the Day!

Today (July 16, 2020), the EU Court of Justice, (the EU’s highest court) struck down the validity of the Privacy Shield – a mechanism that well over 5,000 U.S. companies have been using and relying upon in order to legally justify the transfer of personal data across the Atlantic into the US.  This same court had previously invalidated the “Safe Harbor” protocol, concluding the Safe Harbor failed to adequately protect privacy rights of EU citizens, since it accorded law enforcement in the United States priority over the rights of EU citizens – permitting law enforcement virtually unrestricted access to the data.

This new case began when Max Schrems, an Austrian privacy advocate, complained to Irish data protection regulators that Facebook’s reliance on standard contract clauses to permit data being transferred from the European Union to the United States did not provide adequate protection. Schrems argued that it didn’t prevent intelligence officials and other third parties in the United States from getting at the information. The Commissioner at the Irish Data Protection Authority took the complaint to Ireland’s high court and they referred certain questions regarding the validity of standard contractual clauses to the EU Court of Justice. Although Schrems’ complaint never raised the Privacy Shield issue, it was raised in oral argument before the court, opening the door for the court to include it in their opinion and decision.

While the European Court invalidated the Privacy Shield, it didn’t buy Schrems’ argument that standard contractual clauses should be deemed invalid as a matter of EU law or regulation. They basically said that standard contract clauses could be among the “effective mechanisms” if they required both sides involved in the transfer to ensure information is accorded the equivalent level of protection as required under EU law. They went on to note that the parties should not use those clauses if they can’t comply with that requirement.

As a result, while neutering the Privacy Shield, they did uphold the validity of the use of standard contractual clauses to legally move personal information outside the European Union, if these clauses were effective in providing the same level of privacy protection as the EU requires.

The case is Between the Data Protection Commissioner and Facebook Ireland Ltd. and Maximillian Schrems (Case Number C-311/18) and as always, if you have any questions or need more information about this posting, feel free to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the lawyers at Rimon with whom you regularly work.

Congress Provides Additional PPP Flexibility

H.R. 7010, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, passed by Congress on June 3rd, was signed by the President and became effective on June 5. 2020. The legislation makes some significant changes to the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). For our previous posts on the subject go to our most recent post on the subject PPP Loan Forgiveness Application which has links to all our prior postings.

If you want to read the entire text of the new law, you can read or download a personal copy Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 , but in short (OK, it’s actually not that short) here goes:

Loan Maturity:  PPP loans made on or after June 5th will have a maturity of at least five years up to a maximum of ten years from the date  the borrower applies for forgiveness.  Although the new law only applies to loans made after June 5th, it does allow borrowers who received loans prior to that date to mutually agree to modify the maturity dates and conform to the extended time periods;

Covered Period Extended:  Under the new amendment, for both existing and new loans, in order to determine the amount to be forgiven, the period will now start on the origination date of the loan (i.e., the date the funds are disbursed per the SBA) and ending either 24 weeks (168 days) after the loan origination date, or December 31, 2020, whichever is earlier.  If you received a PPP loan before June 5, you can decide to use the 8 week period under the original CARES Act if you prefer;

Reduction of FTE/Salaries Safe Harbor Deadline Extended:  The new deadline for restoring FTE and salary/wage levels to their February 15th status, originally required by June 30th has now been extended to December 31, 2020.  In addition, the recently enacted amendment to the CARES Act provides that the amount of the loan that will be forgiven will be determine without regard to any reductions as a result of: (a) an inability to rehire individuals who were employees on February 15th and to hire similarly qualified employees for unfilled positions on or before December 31, 2020; or (b) the inability to come back to the level of business that existed before February 15th in order to comply with requirements or guidance from the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the CDC, or OSHA, from March 1st until December 31, which inability is related to requirements needed to maintaining standards applicable to COVID-19 for health, sanitation, social distancing or other worker or customer safety.  PPP borrowers should be prepared to substantiate (document) their good faith inability to hire/re-hire or return to pre-February 15th business levels and it is likely that information will be requested with any applications for forgiveness.

Using Loan Proceeds:  For both existing and new PPP loans, the new legislation provides that at least 60% must be used for covered payroll costs and up to 40% can be used to pay covered non-payroll costs (e.g., timely payment of interest on covered mortgage loans, covered lease, rent and utility payments.

Payment Deferral Period Extended:  Payments of principal and interest on PPP loans will be deferred until SBA determines the amount of the loan that will be forgiven and pays that amount to the lender.

If a Borrower Doesn’t Apply for Forgiveness: If a borrower does not apply for PPP loan forgiveness within 10 months after the end of that borrower’s “covered period,” payments of principal and interest will begin at the end of that 10-month period.  If a borrower has a pre-June 5th PPP loan who choose to continue to use the 8 week covered period under the original CARES Act, if the borrower hasn’t applied for forgiveness, those payments will begin 10 months after the end of that 8 week period.

Employer Payroll Taxes:  Under the new law, even if a Borrower receives forgiveness of the PPP loan, they can still defer paying employer payroll taxes as permitted by the original CARES Act.

While it is likely there will be additional clarifications and updated or revised guidelines as new questions arise, the new law provides welcome relief by extending deadlines, especially how forgiveness rules will be interpreted and applied.  We will keep you posted, but as always, if you have questions or need more information you can contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the legal professionals with whom you regularly work at Rimon Law.

 

Warning Against COVID-19 Claims and more . . .

On April 24, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it had sent warning letters to 10 multi-level marketing companies regarding claims they or their participants (distributors) were making in social media posts and online related to COVID-19.
The claims included supposed health benefits, as well as pitching business opportunities related to the pandemic. You can read the announcement and obtain more detailed information at FTC Sends Warning Letters to Multi-Level Marketers Regarding Health and Earnings Claims They or Their Participants are Making Related to Coronavirus. These new letters come on the heels of letters previously sent to companies about unsupported claims concerning products that can treat or prevent coronavirus (FTC, FDA Send Warning Letters to Seven Companies about Unsupported Claims that Products Can Treat or Prevent Coronavirus).

The FTC and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have sent scores of warning letters to companies that may be violating federal law by making deceptive or scientifically unsupported claims about the ability of these products to treat or cure coronavirus. Warning letters have also been sent to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service providers and other companies warning against “assisting and facilitating” illegal coronavirus-related telemarketing calls.

You can visit the FTC Coronavirus Warning Letters to Companies web page to see a list of warning letters related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The FTC also keeps track of consumer complaints related the pandemic and updates the data regularly.  As of yesterday, there were almost 30,000 COVID-19 related consumer complaints, and although less than 50% of all these complaints report a loss, the estimated fraud losses based on those that do is now well over $20,000,000.  For the latest statistics, visit Coronavirus (COVID-19) Consumer Complaint Data, which the FTC updates regularly.

The FTC and the Department of Justice have also issued a joint statement expressing their views on unfair competition and antitrust laws and regulations to make it clear, especially in these extraordinary times of crisis, how firms (including competitors) are permitted to engage in pro-competitive collaboration that does not violate the antitrust laws.  You can read the statement at Joint Antitrust Statement Regarding COVID-19.

Rimon lawyers continue to follow these and related developments applicable to the Paycheck Protection Program and other government initiatives available through the SBA and related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information or assistance you can contact me, Joe Rosenbaum or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.  Stay safe!!

 

 

 

Paycheck Protection Program (Updated FAQs)

We previously posted information regarding the initial release of information about the Paycheck Protection Program being implemented by the U. S. Small Business Administration (US Chamber of Commerce Issues Coronavirus Small Business Guide and Paycheck Protection Program & Disaster Relief Loan Information Released (Updated)).

If you have been following those developments, yesterday (28 April 2020) the SBA updated the FAQs and you can read and download a copy of the update directly from the SBA’s website Paycheck Protection Program Loans Frequently Asked Questions.

While the FAQ document does not have the force or effect of law or regulation, the guidance is based on the SBA’s interpretation of the CARES Act and of the Paycheck Protection Program Interim Final Rules and notes the U.S. government will not challenge any action taken by a lender in reliance upon and conforming to the guidance and any subsequent rulemaking in effect at the time.

 

 

California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

Although amended twice (September 13th and October 11th of 2018) after its initial passage by the California State Legislature and being signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in June of 2018, the California Consumer Privacy Act (California Civil Code Section 1798.100) (“CCPA”) becomes effective with the new year (January 1, 2020).

Although it is intended to protect and afford California residents with certain rights (in some areas, greater or somewhat different than the European Union’s General Data Protection Directive 2016/679), it affects non-profit entities that do business in California, and that collect personal information of consumers and either has annual gross revenues over $25 million OR buys or sells personal data of 50,000 or more consumers/households OR earns over half its annual revenue from selling consumer personal information.

If your organization fits into any of those categories, you are required to establish, put into place and maintain reasonable security procedures and practices to protect consumer data and to afford California residents the right to know what personal data is being collected about them; to know whether and to whom the consumer’s personal data is sold or disclosed; to refuse to permit the sale of their personal data; to access their personal information; and to ask you to delete personal information collected from them.  The law also prohibits discrimination against any consumer for exercising any of their privacy rights under the CCPA.

While many business have been busily amending their agreements with suppliers, service providers and likely have been presented updated and revised contracts with “CCPA” amendments in order to ensure those in the chain of collection, storage, handling, distribution and use are in compliance, if you do any business in or with California residents, don’t forget to update your privacy policies and any terms of use that apply to your websites, e-commerce and online/mobile presence generally.  Those sites, even those that do not require any registration or input directly from consumers, almost certainly will be collecting information that is covered by the broad definition of “personal information” under the CCPA.

If you would like to know more about the CCPA or have any questions about this post, don’t hesitate to contact me Joe Rosenbaum, or any of the Rimon lawyers with whom you regularly work.

 

Rimon’s Complimentary 2019 CLE Webinar Series: Coming in January

Enrollment for the 2019 Rimon Law CLE Webinar Series being held in January is now open, so don’t wait too long to register!

Don’t miss the chance to register, to learn and to earn CLE credits.

This January (2019) we will be offering the following programs:

  • State and Local Taxation: Headline News and Trends, conducted by David Fruchtman;
  • Corporate Governance Issues Related to Mergers and Acquisitions of Delaware Corporations, conducted by Frank Vargas and Michael Vargas;
  • It All Ads Up: Advertising, Promotions & Celebrity Endorsements in a Digital, Mobile, Social & Augmented World, conducted by Joseph I. Rosenbaum;
  • Copyright and Trademark Law: The Uncomfortable Interface, conducted by Mark S. Lee; and
  •  Law and Behavior: Ethics in Deception before the PTO, AIA Proceedings and Enforcement Presentations, conducted by Maxim Waldbaum.

To get dates, times and more information and to register for any or all of them go to 2019 Rimon Law CLE Webinar Series.