Social Media Tops RIAs’ Compliance Concerns, Survey Finds

SEC's pay to play rule, Form ADV Part 2 also top advisory firms' compliance chore list

Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: AP) Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo: AP)

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  • Pay-to-Play Rule Violating the pay-to-play rule can result in serious consequences, and RIAs should adopt robust policies and procedures to prevent and detect contributions made to influence the selection of the firm by a government entity.
  • Books and Records Rule Thorough and complete books and records enable RIAs to demonstrate that they have fulfilled their fiduciary obligations to clients and complied with applicable rules and regulations.

Advisory firms are spending more time on compliance, with 92% of registered investment advisors (RIAs) employing at least one full-time compliance specialist, an increase from 78% in 2010, according to a recently released compliance survey of 412 RIAs.

The Investment Adviser Association (IAA), ACA Compliance Group, and Old Mutual Asset Management recently released their sixth annual Investment Management Compliance Testing Survey, which found the top five compliance concerns for RIA firms of all sizes are advertising and marketing, data security, custody, personal trading and regulatory reporting.

The survey also found that other top compliance concerns among small, mid-sized and large RIA firms are pay to play rules, social media, whistleblowing, Form ADV Part 2, insider trading, anti-bribery and financial crime as well as foreign advisory activities.

The top two “hot compliance topics” for advisors participating in the survey were regulatory reporting (44%)—which includes compliance with Form ADV Part 2—as well as insider trading (42%) , notes Kathy Ireland, associate general counsel at IAA.

Among the 412 survey participants 7% indicated that they have more than 20 employees serving in a legal or compliance function, while 66% of chief compliance officers (CCOs) wear two or more hats and perform non-CCO functions. This is a decrease from the 2010 survey, in which 75% of CCOs performed non-CCO functions.

As to the SEC’s pay to play rule, which restricts advisors’ and their employees’ ability to make political contributions to government officials to influence the selection of advisors to public pension funds and other government entities, 32% of the firms polled reported having adopted a stand-alone pay to play policy, while 38% reported that they have addressed pay to play as part of other compliance policies.

Sixty-eight percent of firms apply their policies to all employees, not just to “covered associates” as defined under the rule. However, 20% of respondents—over half of which had less than $500 million in assets under management--said the pay to play rule doesn’t apply to them.

Sixty-four percent of the firms polled say they have adopted formal written policies and procedures to govern the use of social networking by the firm and/or employees.

Personal use of such social media sites by employees is permitted–subject to appropriate restrictions–at 54% of the firms responding. Sixteen percent impose no restrictions on the use of social networks, the survey found. But 29% of the firms say they prohibit the use of personal social networking websites for business purposes, while 83% of the respondents said they don’t have a corporate social networking site.

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