Yes, the SEC Wants Real Estate Fund Managers to Register

After six months baking in the oven, the new Form ADV is ready. (To be more precise, the new Part 1 is ready. Part 2 has been sitting on the table for almost a year.) Form ADV still calls for real estate fund managers to register as investment advisers

Earlier I had pointed out how a real estate fund manager could be considered an investment adviser and have to register with the SEC under the Investment Advisers Act. In the Proposed Changes to Form ADV the SEC included “real estate fund”. They also changed the way you calculate assets under management, taking in the value of the fund assets, not just securities held by the fund.

While waiting for Form ADV to finish baking, I wondered if there might be some clarification or changes to pull real estate funds out of the registration requirement. It didn’t happen.

As you can see from the image above, “real estate fund” is still one of the choices when it comes to designating the type of fund. That gives it equal status with hedge fund, venture capital fund, and private equity fund. The definition of real estate fund is unchanged in the instructions for Part 1A of Form ADV:

“Real estate fund” means any private fund that is not a hedge fund, that does not provide investors with redemption rights in the ordinary course, and that invests primarily in real estate and real estate related assets.

Maybe there is room under the definition of “private fund”? In the Glossary it’s defined as “An issuer that would be an investment company as defined in section 3 of the Investment Company Act of 1940 but for section 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7) of that Act.” That does leave open the position that the fund could be exempt under section 3(c)(5). That’s a murkier exemption than the one provided by 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7).

The other confusion over how to value the assets under management is gone. The old version of Form ADV had a 50% test for assets under management. If less than 50% of the value was not securities, then you didn’t have a securities portfolio and the value was zero.

The new way of calculating assets under management for a private fund from the Instructions for Part 1A:

For purposes of this definition, treat all of the assets of a private fund as a securities portfolio, regardless of the nature of such assets. For accounts of private funds, moreover, include in the securities portfolio any uncalled commitment pursuant to which a person is obligated to acquire an interest in, or make a capital contribution to, the private fund.

It still gets back to being a “private fund” and relying on a 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7), instead of a 3(c)(5) definition. One thing to realize is that the definition of “private fund” actually comes from Section 402 of Dodd-Frank, not from the wishes of the SEC. The intent of the SEC is clear, even if there may be some wiggle room.