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Aug 30 -- The Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) is reopening the comment period for its proposal, Safeguarding Advisory Client Assets, Release No. IA–6240 (Feb. 15, 2023) (“Proposal”), which proposed a new rule under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act” or “Act”) that would redesignate and amend the current custody rule. In light of the adoption of the private fund adviser audit rule, which generally requires a registered investment adviser to obtain an annual financial statement audit of each private fund it advises in accordance with the audit provision of the current custody rule, reopening the comment period will allow interested persons additional time to assess the proposed amendments to the current custody rule's audit provision in light of the private fund adviser audit rule.

The comment period for the proposed rule published in the Federal Register on March 9, 2023, at 88 FR 14672, is reopened. Comments should be received on or before October 30, 2023.

The Commission proposed 17 CFR 275.223–1 under the Advisers Act (“rule 223–1” or “safeguarding rule”) on February 15, 2023, to address how advisers safeguard client assets and enhance investor protections. The Proposal also would renumber 17 CFR 275.206(4)–2 (“rule 206(4)–2” or “current custody rule”) to redesignate it as rule 223–1 and amend certain of its provisions, including 17 CFR 275.206(4)–2(b)(4) (“rule 206(4)–2(b)(4)” or “audit provision”). The original comment period for the Proposal closed on May 8, 2023.

Title 17 section 275.206(4)–2(a)(4) of the current custody rule requires the client funds and securities of which an adviser has custody to be verified by actual examination at least once during each calendar year by an independent public accountant. An adviser is deemed to have complied with this annual surprise examination requirement with respect to the accounts of certain pooled investment vehicles, provided that such vehicles' audited financial statements are obtained and delivered in accordance with the elements of the current custody rule's audit provision, as set forth in paragraphs (b)(4)(i) through (b)(4)(iii) of the current custody rule. Similar to the current custody rule, the proposed safeguarding rule generally would require an adviser with custody of client assets to obtain a similar annual surprise examination. Again, like the current custody rule, the proposed safeguarding rule also contains an audit provision that, when satisfied, would allow an adviser to be deemed in compliance with the proposed safeguarding rule's surprise examination requirement with respect to certain client accounts.

While the elements of the proposed safeguarding rule's audit provision remain largely unchanged from those of the current custody rule, the Proposal includes some key modifications; namely, (1) expanding the audit provision's availability from “pooled investment vehicle” clients to “any other entity”; (2) requiring the audited financial statements of non-U.S. clients to contain information substantially similar to statements prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP and material differences with U.S. GAAP to be reconciled; and (3) requiring that the adviser or the entity enter into a written agreement with the auditor requiring the auditor to notify the Commission in the event of the auditor's termination or issuance of a modified opinion.

On August 23, 2023, the Commission adopted new rules designed to protect investors who invest in private funds. Among them was 17 CFR 275.206(4)–10 under the Act (“rule 206(4)–10” or “private fund adviser audit rule”), which generally requires a registered investment adviser to cause each of the private funds it advises (other than a securitized asset fund, as defined in 17 CFR 275.211(h)(1)–1 (“securitized asset fund”)) to undergo a financial statement audit (as defined in 17 CFR 210.1–02(d)) that satisfies the requirements set forth in paragraph (b)(4) of the current custody rule, as well as to deliver each such audited financial statement in accordance with paragraph (c) of the current custody rule.

Because compliance with the private fund adviser audit rule is predicated in part on an adviser complying with the current custody rule's audit provision, the proposed modifications to the audit provision as set forth in the proposed safeguarding rule, if adopted, would apply to advisers subject to the private fund adviser audit rule. The Commission is therefore reopening the comment period for the safeguarding rule proposal so that commenters may consider the proposed modifications to the audit provision in light of rule 206(4)–10. The Commission is reopening the comment period for Release No. IA–6240 Safeguarding Advisory Client Assets until October 30, 2023.
 
Press release: https://www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2023-156
Proposed rule: https://www.sec.gov/rules/2023/02/safeguarding-advisory-client-assets
Fact sheet: https://www.sec.gov/files/ia-6240-fact-sheet.pdf
Comments received as of 8/23: https://www.sec.gov/comments/s7-04-23/s70423.htm
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-18667

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