SEC’s Pay-to-Play Rule Is Effective Today

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If you have (or want to have) government investors in your private fund then you need to be in compliance with Rule 206(4)-5 starting today.

Summary (from the SEC):

The Securities and Exchange Commission is adopting a new rule under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 that prohibits an investment adviser from providing advisory services for compensation to a government client for two years after the adviser or certain of its executives or employees make a contribution to certain elected officials or candidates. The new rule also prohibits an adviser from providing or agreeing to provide, directly or indirectly, payment to any third party for a solicitation of advisory business from any government entity on behalf of such adviser, unless such third parties are registered broker-dealers or registered investment advisers, in each case themselves subject to pay to play restrictions. Additionally, the new rule prevents an adviser from soliciting from others, or coordinating, contributions to certain elected officials or candidates or payments to political parties where the adviser is providing or seeking government business. The Commission also is adopting rule amendments that require a registered adviser to maintain certain records of the political contributions made by the adviser or certain of its executives or employees. The new rule and rule amendments address “pay to play” practices by investment advisers.

Limitations on Political Contributions

It is now unlawful for an investment adviser to provide “investment advisory services for compensation to a government entity within two years after a contribution to an official of the government entity is made by the investment adviser or any covered associate of the investment adviser.”

The rule defines an official as candidate for an elective office that can

  1. directly or indirectly influence the hiring of an investment adviser, or
  2. has the authority to appoint a person who can directly or indirectly influence the hiring of an investment adviser.

Unfortunately, investment advisers are left on their own to figure out if any political position is one that falls into the prohibited bucket.

De Minimis Exception

There are two de minimis exceptions. For an official they are entitled to vote for, a covered associate can contribute up to $350 per election. That exception is lowered to $150 if they are not entitled to vote for the official.

Record-Keeping

The new rule also imposes new record-keeping requirements. A private fund will need to keep track of

  1. its covered associates
  2. all government entities that are investors
  3. all contributions made to an “official of a government entity”
  4. all contributions made to a political party
  5. all contributions made to a political action committee

You don’t need to keep records if you have no government clients.

Covered Associates

The limitation on contributions only applies to “covered associates.” they key will be identifying who in the organization falls into this category. Who is a Covered Associate?

  1. Any general partner, managing member or executive officer, or other individual with a similar status or function;
  2. Any employee who solicits a government entity for the investment adviser and any person who supervises, directly or indirectly, such employee; and
  3. Any political action committee controlled by the investment adviser or by any person described in 1 or 2.

Good luck.

Sources:

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