SEC Staff Issues No-Action Relief Under Custody Rule

Author:Mr Kevin Scanlan
Profession:Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP

The SEC staff has issued a no-action letter to Madison Capital Funding LLC, allowing the registered investment adviser to conduct certain loan syndication activities despite its inability to comply with certain requirements of Rule 206(4)-2 under the Investment Advisers Act. This rule, known as the custody rule, requires registered investment advisers to hold client funds or securities in accordance with certain conditions in order to protect client assets from misappropriation.

What the rule requires

The rule provides that client funds and securities must be maintained with an organization, such as a bank or a registered broker-dealer, that meets the definition of "qualified custodian." The funds must be held either in a separate account for each client (under the client's name) or in accounts that contain only the client's funds and securities under the investment adviser's name as agent or trustee. Additionally, the investment adviser must have a reasonable basis to believe the qualified custodian sends account statements to its clients at least quarterly.

Commercial practices involve commingling of assets

Representatives of Madison wrote to the SEC, noting that nonbank lenders typically fund only a portion of their loans to middle-market companies and syndicate the remaining portion. It is common for lenders to serve as administrative agents for the loan syndicate, thereby becoming the main point of contact for communication and payments.

In this context, Madison is a middle-market lender, loan syndicator and administrative agent that also provides investment advisory services to private investment funds and separately managed accounts. The investors in these funds and accounts are typically institutional investors, such as pension funds, insurance companies and other large organizations.

As required by the loan syndicate credit agreements, Madison follows negotiated guidelines and formulas when receiving or distributing money. In its capacity as administrative agent, it applies the terms of the credit agreements and, as noted by the SEC, "has no authority to determine how the cash is used, allocated or disbursed."

To make and receive payments, Madison uses a single bank account maintained by a U.S. bank that meets the definition of a "qualified custodian" under the custody rule. In that account, funds from multiple loan...

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