Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

SEC Proposes a Plain English Brochure for Investment Advisers

The SEC voted to propose rule amendments requiring investment advisers to prepare and deliver to clients and prospective clients a narrative brochure written in plain English.  Brochures would be made available to the general public through the SEC sponsored Investment Adviser Public Disclosure Web site. The narrative would publicly disclose to investors more detailed information about an investment adviser's business practices, conflicts of interest, and disciplinary history.

The Commission is proposing amendments to Part 2 of Form ADV, the adviser brochure, and related rules under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. If adopted, more than 10,000 investment advisers registered with the SEC would be required to provide clear, current, and meaningful disclosure in narrative form to nearly 20 million advisory clients.  Most advisers currently use a check-the-box, fill-in-the-blank form for their brochures. The plain English narrative brochure being proposed by the Commission would provide investors with more detailed information about an adviser's business practices, including the types of advisory services they provide, fees they charge, and the risks that clients can anticipate. The narrative also would disclose the disciplinary history of an investment adviser including any violation of the securities laws, as well as conflicts of interest such as the use of affiliates to execute transactions, the use of client brokerage to obtain "soft dollars benefits," and the adviser's interests in certain transactions.

The SEC proposal also would address developing areas of concern, including conflicts of interest arising from the side-by-side management of clients who pay performance fees (such as hedge funds) and those who do not; conflicts of interest arising from an adviser's receipt of compensation from issuers of financial products the adviser recommends to clients; and qualifications of a firm's employees who give advice to clients.

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