On November 4, 2022, compliance with the amendments to the advertising and cash solicitation rules in Rule 206(4)‑1 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (Marketing Rule), which the Commission issued on December 22, 2020 will become mandatory.
Since the advertising and cash solicitation rules were adopted (Rule 206(4)-1 in 1961 and Rule 206(4)-3 in 1979, respectively) the advent of the internet and social media, among other things, has dramatically changed the landscape of marketing professional services. The Marketing Rule is designed to modernize rules that govern investment adviser advertisements and payments to solicitors, replacing the broadly drawn limitations and prescriptive or duplicative elements in the previous rules with more principles-based provisions, as described below.
Definition of Advertisement. The amended definition of “advertisement” contains two prongs:
- The first prong captures communications traditionally covered by the advertising and includes any direct or indirect communication an investment adviser makes that: (i) offers the investment adviser’s investment advisory services with regard to securities to prospective clients or private fund investors, or (ii) offers new investment advisory services with regard to securities to current clients or private fund investors. The first prong of the definition excludes most one-on-one communications.
- The second governs solicitation activities previously covered by the cash solicitation rule and includes any endorsement or testimonial for which an adviser provides cash and non-cash compensation directly or indirectly (e.g., directed brokerage, awards or other prizes, and reduced advisory fees).
General Prohibitions. Under the Marketing Rule, the following advertising practices are prohibited:
- making an untrue statement of a material fact, or omitting a material fact necessary to prevent making the statement misleading;
- making a material statement of fact that the adviser does not have a reasonable basis for believing it will be able to substantiate;
- including information that would reasonably be likely to cause an untrue or misleading implication or inference to be drawn concerning a material fact relating to the adviser;
- discussing potential benefits without providing fair and balanced treatment of any associated material risks or limitations;
- referencing specific investment advice provided by the adviser that is not presented in a fair and balanced manner;
- including or excluding performance results, or presenting performance time periods, in a manner that is not fair and balanced; and
- including information that is otherwise materially misleading.
Testimonials and Endorsements. The Marketing Rule prohibits the use of testimonials and endorsements in an advertisement, unless the adviser satisfies certain disclosure, oversight, and disqualification provisions:
- Disclosure. Advertisements must CLEARLY and PROMINENTLY disclose whether the person giving the testimonial or endorsement (the “promoter”) is a client and whether the promoter is compensated. Additional disclosures are required regarding compensation and conflicts of interest. There are exceptions from the disclosure requirements for SEC-registered broker-dealers under certain circumstances. Advisers will no longer need to obtain from each investor acknowledgements of receipt of the disclosures.
- Oversight and Written Agreement.An adviser that uses testimonials or endorsements in an advertisement must oversee compliance with the marketing rule. An adviser also must enter into a written agreement with promoters, except where the promoter is an affiliate of the adviser or the promoter receives de minimis compensation (i.e., $1,000 or less, or the equivalent value in non-cash compensation, during the preceding twelve months).
- Disqualification. Subject to certain exceptions, “bad actors” may not serve as promoters.
Third-Party Ratings. The rule prohibits the use of third-party ratings in an advertisement, unless the adviser provides disclosures and satisfies certain criteria pertaining to how the rating was prepared.
Performance Information Generally. In order to deter the provision of misleading information, the rule prohibits including in any advertisement:
- gross performance, unless the advertisement also presents net performance;
- performance results, unless they are provided for specific time periods in most circumstances;
- any statement that the Commission has approved or reviewed any calculation or presentation of performance results;
- performance results from fewer than all portfolios with substantially similar investment policies, objectives, and strategies as those being offered in the advertisement, with limited exceptions;
- performance results of a subset of investments extracted from a portfolio, unless the advertisement provides, or offers to provide promptly, the performance results of the total portfolio;
- hypothetical performance (which does not include performance generated by interactive analysis tools), unless the adviser adopts and implements policies and procedures reasonably designed to ensure that the performance is relevant to the likely financial situation and investment objectives of the intended audience and the adviser provides certain information underlying the hypothetical performance; and
- predecessor performance, unless there is appropriate similarity with regard to the personnel and accounts at the predecessor adviser and the personnel and accounts at the advertising adviser. In addition, the advertising adviser must include all relevant disclosures clearly and prominently in the advertisement.
If you are an investment adviser, now is the time to ensure your marketing materials comply with the modernized Marketing Rule.