With failure, comes learning. As a compliance officer, disciplinary actions against other compliance officers can be a road map showing me what not to do. Recently, the SEC charged affiliated firms and their former chief compliance officer with failing to have adequate policies and procedures to prevent misuse of nonpublic information.
Section 204A and Rule 204A-1 make it very clear that every investment adviser must have written policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent the misuse of material, nonpublic information. Buckingham Capital Management Inc. and its broker-dealer parent company, The Buckingham Research Group Inc. apparently did not.
BRG and BCM’s policies and procedures were deficient in a number of ways. BRG had a written procedure to address the misuse of material, nonpublic information, but did not follow its written procedure in practice. Important compliance policies and procedures were not contained in BCM’s written policies and procedures. Further, in some instances, BCM’s written policies and procedures were so unclear that employees did not understand their responsibilities. In other instances, the practices BCM employed varied materially from its written policies and procedures. These failures led to inadequate implementation and enforcement of the firms’ written compliance policies and procedures.
That’s bad, but more likely to result in a deficiency letter than an enforcement action, assuming they were not misusing the information. The problem was that these deficiencies were discovered during a 2003 SEC examination. BCM said they would fix the problem.
In preparation for a 2006 SEC exam, BCM discovered it was missing more that 100 pre-approval forms for trades and that its compliance review logs for 2005 and 2006 were incomplete.
Rather than deliver incomplete records, BCM staff altered the records. This apparently angered the SEC and they moved the case from examination into enforcement.
The former CCO, Karp was censured and agreed to pay a $35,000 penalty.
If the SEC tells you there is deficiency, fix it and make it a priority. The first thing they will look at on their next visit is the area of the deficiency. I’m still surprised that the SEC reported only 90% of deficiencies get cured.
Don’t falsify records. That will get the problem moved from the inspection side to the enforcement side of the SEC. That would be a CCO Failure. (The complaint indicates that Mr. Karp did not participate in the falsification.)