By Rob Daly

SEC Delays Liquidity-Risk Deadline

Asset managers have 6 more months to dot i’s and cross t’s.

Open-end investment firms have caught a breather in their preparations to meet the December deadline for the implementation of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Rule 22e-4.

The 459-page rule, which the regulator adopted in October 2016, mandates that open-end management companies assess, monitor and report the liquidity of the securities in their portfolios to minimize risk to end investor.

The Commission has voted to delay the deadline by six months. Investment companies that have more than $1 billion of assets under management have until June 1, 2019, to become compliant while investment companies with AUM less than $1 billion have until December 1, 2019.

The delay is a measured step designed to help preserve crucial market oversight while addressing industry concerns, according to the regulator.

Jay Clayton

Jay Clayton, SEC

“I expect that our action will promote a smoother and more effective implementation process for the rule,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton in a prepared statement. “I appreciate the valuable engagement with stakeholders we have received thus far, and welcome further engagement, particularly from fund investors, as the implementation process continues.”

“We appreciate the Commission’s action to extend compliance dates for certain complex aspects of the liquidity-risk management program rule,” noted Susan Olson, general counsel at the Investment Company Institute. “Our members are working diligently and taking the steps necessary to complete systems to implement the new requirements, and this action will provide critical time to help ensure compliance with the new rule.”

The decision comes three months after the ICI filed a request with the regulator to extend the deadlines by at least a year citing that many investment companies plan to rely on vendor offerings, which they did not deem sufficiently mature.

“Systems likely will require several more months before they are mature enough for meaningful evaluation, testing, and all other necessary product- and firm-specific due diligence (which itself is a time-consuming process),” wrote Dorothy Donohue, the acting general counsel at ICI at the time.

Approximately a month after the rule went into effect in mid-January 2017, Ian Domowitz, CEO of ITG Solutions Networks, told Markets Media that the regulation would require a whole new set of reporting requirements.

“These, in turn, must be consistent with which a set of quantitative requirements, which funds must figure out how to do themselves or outsource to a provider,” he explained. “Funds must develop a process to determine on a regular basis whether they exceed the 15% limit on illiquid investments, and determine a floor with respect to highly liquid investments.”

At the time, the expectation was that investment companies would build the necessary from scratch. However, by September 2017, 91% of firms surveyed by the ICI responded that they were considering working with a vendor and seeking help with the rule’s “bucketing” requirement.

The survey demonstrated that “vendor readiness” and “fund readiness” are not the same, according to Donohue. “Rather, they are sequential—the former must precede the latter.”

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