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

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

SEC Tightens Rules on Advisory Performance Fee Charges

The SEC tightened its rule on investment advisory performance fees to raise the net worth requirement for investors who pay performance fees, by excluding the value of the investor’s home from the net worth calculation.

Under the SEC’s rule, registered investment advisers may charge clients performance fees if the client’s net worth or assets under management by the adviser meet certain dollar thresholds. Investors who meet the net worth or asset threshold are deemed to be “qualified clients,” able to bear the risks associated with performance fee arrangements.

The revised rule will require “qualified clients” to have at least $1 million of assets under management with the adviser, up from $750,000, or a net worth of at least $2 million, up from $1.5 million. These rule changes conform the rule’s dollar thresholds to the levels set by a Commission order in July 2011. The Commission-ordered increase in the thresholds was required by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. In addition, the revised rule will exclude the value of a client’s primary residence and certain property-related debts from the net worth calculation; the change was not required by the Dodd-Frank Act, but is consistent with changes the Commission approved in December to net worth calculations for determining who is an “accredited investor” eligible to invest in certain unregistered securities offerings.

A new grandfather provision to the performance fee rule will permit registered investment advisers to continue to charge clients performance fees if the clients were considered “qualified clients” before the rule changes. In addition, the grandfather provision will permit newly registering investment advisers to continue charging performance fees to those clients they were already charging performance fees.

Finally, the revised rule provides that every five years, the Commission will issue an order making inflation adjustments to the dollar thresholds used to determine whether an individual or company is a qualified client, as required by the Dodd-Frank Act.

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