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94-44 Board Approves Clarification On Applicability Of Article III, Section 40 Of Rules Of Fair Practice To Investment Advisory Activities Of Registered Representatives

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Executive Summary

The Board of Governors, acting on the recommendation of a special Ad Hoc Committee, is clarifying the applicability of Article III, Section 40 of the NASD Rules of Fair Practice to the investment advisory activities of registered representatives. This Notice describes those investment advisory activities that constitute private securities transactions within the scope of Article III, Section 40.

Summary Of Article III, Section 40

Article III, Section 40 provides that any person associated with a member who participates in a private securities transaction must, prior to participating in the transaction, provide written notice to the member with which he or she is associated. The required notice must describe the transaction, the associated person's role, and state whether the associated person has received or may receive selling compensation. The member must respond to the notice in writing indicating whether it approves or disapproves the proposed transaction. Where the registered person has received or may receive selling compensation, the member approving the transaction must record the transaction in its books and records and must supervise the registered person's participation in the transaction as if it was the member's own under Article III, Section 27 of the Rules of Fair Practice.

Section 40 defines "private securities transaction" as any securities transaction outside the regular course or scope of an associated person's employment with a member, including, though not limited to, new offerings of securities which are not registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

"Selling compensation" is defined as any compensation paid directly or indirectly from whatever source in connection with or as a result of the purchase or sale of a security, including, though not limited to, commissions; finder's fees; securities or rights to acquire securities; rights of participation in profits, tax benefits, or dissolution proceeds, as a general partner or otherwise; or expense reimbursements.

Notice to Members 85-84, which announced the approval of Article III, Section 40, broadly defined the scope of selling compensation and deliberately meant to include the receipt of any item of value received or to be received, directly or indirectly, from the execution of any such securities transaction. The Notice also discussed that Article III, Section 40 was specifically designed to apply to situations where the registered person was acting as a salesperson or in some other capacity.

Background Of The Application Of Section 40 To RR/RIAs

The National Business Conduct Committee (NBCC), at its May 1991 meeting, considered the issue of the applicability of Article III, Section 40 of the Rules of Fair Practice to certain activities of individuals who are registered both as representatives of an NASD member firm and with the SEC as a Registered Investment Adviser ("dually registered person" or "RR/RIA"), and who conduct their investment advisory activities "away from" their NASD member employer. The issue was considered by the NBCC as a result of a number of requests for interpretations relating to programs under which registered representatives directed securities transactions for their investment advisory clients to a broker/dealer other than the firm with which they are registered.

The NBCC concluded that Article III, Section 40, consistent with the policy announced when the section was adopted, applied in such a manner as to cover certain activities of individuals who are registered both as a representative of an NASD member and with the SEC as an investment adviser. The NBCC stated that Section 40 should apply to all investment advisory activities conducted by these dually registered persons that result in the purchase or sale of securities by the associated person's advisory clients, with the exception of their activities on behalf of the member. The NBCC also determined that the receipt of compensation as a result of investment advisory activities constituted the receipt of selling compensation as defined in Section 40.

The NBCC then issued Notice to Members 91-32, explaining its position and soliciting comments on other advisory compensation arrangements, including "wrap" fees, that had not been before the Committee. In response to Notice to Members 91-32, the NASD received over 150 comment letters. Few of the letters addressed the NBCC's request for information on other compensation arrangements but rather sought to clarify the NBCC's view on the application of Section 40 to various factual scenarios involving the activities of dually registered persons. After reviewing the comments, the NBCC and the Board appointed an Ad Hoc Committee of the Board to examine this entire area. This special committee met numerous times to review the comment letters, the history and intent of Section 40, and to receive input from various segments of the securities industry, including those most affected by the NBCC's position.

Following extensive discussions and deliberations, the Ad Hoc Committee formulated a clarification which the Board considered and adopted. The following discussion explains the Board's clarification of its position on the scope of transactions that would be deemed to be "for compensation" under Article III, Section 40 with respect to registered representatives/registered investment advisers.

Clarification

In clarifying its previous position in Notice to Members 91-32, the Board focused primarily upon the RR/ RIA's participation in the execution of the transaction—meaning participation that goes beyond a mere recommendation. Article III, Section 40, therefore, applies to any transaction in which the dually registered person participated in the execution of the trade.

An example of a RR/RIA clearly participating in the execution of trades is where he or she enters an order on behalf of the customer for particular securities transactions either with a brokerage firm other than the member they are registered with, directly with a mutual fund, or with any other entity, including another adviser, and receives any compensation for the overall advisory services. As a result, the "for compensation" provisions of Article III, Section 40 would apply, thereby requiring the RR/RIA adviser to provide notice to his or her firm and requiring that firm, if it approved the activities, to record the transactions and supervise the conduct of the RR/RIA. The Board has determined to exclude from Section 40 coverage arrangements under which the account is "handed off' to unaffiliated third-party advisers that make all investment decisions. This, and most other advisory activities, would fall under and be subject to the requirements of Article III, Section 43 of the Rules of Fair Practice.

Activities that would fall under either Sections 40 or 43 of the Rules of Fair Practice can be generally categorized as follows:

1. Transactions executed on behalf of the customer in which the RR/RIA participated in the execution would be subject to the full "for compensation" provisions of Section 40, thereby requiring the member to record and supervise the transactions. This would be the case whether the RR/RIA received transactionally related, commission-type compensation, asset-based management fees, wrap fees, hourly, yearly, or per-plan fees, as long as fees paid include execution services by the RR/RIA. Also included are situations where the dually registered person has an arrangement with a third-party money manager to handle the customer's account and the RR/RIA makes individual investment decisions for the client, based on recommendations or alternatives provided by the third-party manager.
2. Only transactions executed on the customer's behalf without any form of compensation would be subject to the "non-compensation" provisions of Section 40. It is unlikely that activity of this sort would exist to any substantial degree outside of a familial type relationship.
3. All other investment advisory activities that do not include the RR/RIA's participation in the execution would be subject to the notification provisions of Article III, Section 43. These activities would include securities transactions executed by customers independently through another broker/dealer or directly with a fund or other entity based on specific recommendations of the dually registered person, timing services where the service makes the investment decision, the utilization of unaffiliated third-party advisers where the RR/RIA does not participate in investment decisions for the client, financial plan creation and other such activities.

Analysis Of Various Scenarios Under The Clarification

The following are issues raised in correspondence from members and the results under this interpretation.

1. A service offered by many discount brokerage firms includes the firm providing "back office" services for the dually registered person which include collection of the asset-based advisory fee. Here, the RR/RIA has opened an account on behalf of a customer and has discretionary authority to execute transactions on the customer's behalf. Under these facts, the "for compensation" of Section 40 would apply.
2. Some RR/RIAs engage in activities limited to the writing of financial plans for a fee which do not include specific securities purchase recommendations or executions. Under this approach, such activities would be governed by Section 43.
3. Some asset management firms offer "wrap fee" programs to registered investment advisers. The "wrap fee" includes a fee for management, accounting, and reporting. This fee is shared with the investment adviser who is also a registered representative. Portfolio transactions are handled through a broker/dealer firm at substantial discounts and are not known to or handled by the RR/RIA. Investment advisers receive a part of the asset management fee only and receive no part of any transaction fee. The adviser is registered with the SEC and any states as necessary. This activity would be subject to Section 43 rather than Section 40 of the Rules of Fair Practice.
4. There are firms offering market timing services where the firm, operating as an independent investment adviser, directs the switches within a family of mutual funds, either load or no-load. There are no transaction charges and the investment adviser, also a registered representative, is not involved in handling switches among funds. The dually registered person does receive some part/percentage of the market timing fee. If the customer or timing firm effects the switches with no involvement by the RR/RIA, this fact pattern would be considered as falling under Section 43.
5. Investment advisers who are also registered representatives often charge an advisory fee to "time" a group of load or no-load mutual funds for clients. This process could also be described as asset allocation or a monitoring service. The exchange of funds is handled directly by the investment adviser with the fund group. This pattern differs from number 4 in that the adviser effects the transactions. These are "for compensation" transactions pursuant to Section 40.
6. There are several firms which provide asset allocation models, software, computer hardware, and direct linkup and execute the transactions as necessary. Each adviser can produce statements for clients based on downloaded information. The RR/RIA receives a portion of the asset-based fee for his or her monitoring of the account. The firm to which the account is referred actually handles all implementation, and the dually registered person has no part in the actual transactions. These third-party arrangements are covered by Section 43.
7. Institutional advisers offer services to individual investment advisers which include permitting the adviser to implement, via computer, purchases and sales in institutional funds. Assets are held at banks and the RR/RIA produces statements and confirms for a client. The RR/RIA also handles the allocation of assets and places transactions. The client can pay one combined fee or two separate fees. One is paid to the mutual fund (internal fee) and the second is paid separately to the dually registered person for handling the account. To the degree that the RR/RIA participates in the execution of the transactions, this would produce a "for compensation" Section 40 result.
8. Investment advisers may advise clients on assets held and transacted at another broker/dealer without being involved in implementation or execution. The RR/RIA may receive copies of statements and charges an advisory fee which is for investment advice and monitoring not related to any transactions in the account. This scenario does not involve either the recommendation or execution of transactions. Since the service is solely advice and monitoring "not related to any transactions in the account," the activities would fall under Section 43.
9. Varying situation number 8, such that the adviser calls the representative of the other broker/dealer to implement or execute transactions but receives no fee or commission for the handling thereof, results in "for compensation" transactions under Section 40.

Members and RR/RIAs are expected to be in compliance with the Board's Interpretation as clarified in this Notice. Those firms and RR/RIAs who have not been operating in accordance with the provisions of Notice to Members 91-32 must immediately conform their activities in order to ensure compliance with the concepts and requirements that have been clarified in this Notice. NASD district examiners will be closely reviewing for compliance with this Interpretation during the course of their field examinations, and violations will be reviewed by DBCCs for consideration of disciplinary action. This clarification should enhance members' abilities to design internal policies and procedures to protect customers who deal with dually registered persons and to prevent potential violations of NASD rules and regulations, particularly Article III, Section 40 of the Rules of Fair Practice. directed to Daniel Sibears, Director, Any questions or inquiries concerning the applicability of Article in, Section 40 to the activities of RR/RIAs may be directed to Craig Landauer, Associate General Counsel at (202) 728-8291. Questions relating to members' general compliance and recordkeeping responsibilities under Article III, Section 40 may be Regulatory Policy at (202) 7286911.


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