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What Are Exempt Reporting Advisers (ERAs)?


Exempt reporting advisers (ERAs) are specialized financial advisors who offer their services primarily to certain private investment and venture capital funds. These advisors are not required to register with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) but still must report certain information. This unique role sets ERAs apart from other investment advisors, making them a valuable resource for certain clients seeking expert advice on managing smaller funds.

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What Is an Exempt Reporting Adviser (ERA)?

ERAs are a unique class of investment advisors that emerged as a direct result of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, enacted in 2010. Unlike their counterparts who are required to register and file detailed reports with the SEC, ERAs are exempt from this requirement. Despite this exemption, they are expected to submit regular reports to the SEC, ensuring a degree of transparency and accountability in their operations.

ERAs typically fall into one of two categories: Private fund advisors and venture capital fund advisors.

  • Private fund advisors: Advisors who manage private funds with less than $150 million in assets under management (AUM) in the U.S. are exempt from full SEC reporting requirements.
  • Venture capital advisors: Advisors in charge of venture capital funds – pools of money used to invest in startups and other early-stage companies – are also exempt from full SEC reporting requirements.

Despite being exempted from registration, ERAs must adhere to certain compliance requirements, including the annual submission of Form ADV Part 1A to the SEC. This form offers insights into the advisor’s operations, clients and employees. Moreover, ERAs are obligated to follow anti-fraud provisions under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, ensuring a robust and trustworthy conduct of their business.

ERA vs. RIA: What’s the Difference?

So, what’s the difference between registered investment advisors (RIAs) and exempt reporting advisers?

An RIA is an advisory firm or an individual advisor who provides investment advice to clients. RIAs may work with institutional clients like large retirement plans with billions in assets or individual clients with only several thousand in AUM.

Unlike ERAs, RIAs are obligated to register with the SEC and adhere to a strict set of regulations and reporting requirements, including an extensive set of record-keeping obligations and providing detailed brochures (Form ADV Part 2) outlining their services, fees, and strategies to clients.

The primary distinctions between ERAs and RIAs lie in their registration requirements and the scale of their operations. While both types of advisors have fiduciary duties, RIAs are subject to more comprehensive regulatory requirements. For instance, an RIA is required to provide brochures to their clients, detailing their services fees and strategies. This level of transparency is not required of ERAs.

Are Exempt Reporting Advisers Fiduciaries?

A financial advisor who manages a venture capital fund has a fiduciary duty to serve the fund's best interests.

Like RIAs, ERAs are considered fiduciaries under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, which means they are obliged to act in the best interests of their clients. They must make full and fair disclosure of all material facts, including potential conflicts of interest. This fiduciary obligation is fundamental to the investment advisory industry.

However, what does this mean for investors? It means that ERAs, despite not undergoing regular SEC inspections like RIAs, are still legally bound to prioritize clients’ interests above their own.

Understanding the fiduciary status of ERAs is fundamental for investors, industry professionals and regulatory bodies alike. This knowledge forms the bedrock of trust in the investment advisory industry and plays a vital role in ensuring investor protection.

Compliance Requirements for ERAs

ERAs don’t get a free pass from all regulatory responsibilities. They are still required to report specific information to the SEC for oversight purposes, while RIAs, being registered with the SEC, must comply with a more rigorous set of regulations.

Like RIAs, ERAs are subject to compliance requirements designed to promote transparency, protect investors and uphold market integrity. Key responsibilities include the obligation to submit an annual updating amendment to Form ADV, a document revealing detailed information about an investment advisor’s business, clientele, employees and any disciplinary events.

ERAs also need to maintain a written compliance manual outlining their policies and procedures while adhering to anti-fraud provisions and specific regulations, such as Regulation D, which governs private placements.

What Regulatory Bodies Do ERAs Report To?

As mentioned above, ERAs still must report on certain elements of their business to the SEC. Additionally, ERAs may also be subject to reporting requirements imposed by state regulatory authorities. While the Dodd-Frank Act created a federal regulatory framework for ERAs, some states have their own regulatory requirements for investment advisors, including ERAs. Advisors must be aware of state-specific rules and reporting obligations if they operate in states with such requirements.

Form ADV Part 1A

In Form ADV Part 1A, ERAs are obliged to provide basic information about their operations, including business practices, conflicts of interest and any disciplinary information. ERAs must update their Form ADV each year and promptly report any material changes to the information provided.

Regulation D

This SEC regulation provides a framework for companies to offer and sell securities without registration with the SEC, simplifying the process and reducing associated costs. ERAs must provide proper disclosures to investors and file a “Form D” with the SEC promptly after their first securities sale. This form contains information about the company’s executives and promoters, the offering size, and the date of the first sale. Non-compliance can lead to penalties, including fines, cease-and-desist orders, and potentially the loss of the Regulation D exemption.

Material Non-Public Information

As an example, let’s say that an ERA handles information about a company or its securities that isn’t publicly available. This could influence an investor’s decision, if publicly known, and include information about the company’s financial performance, strategic plans, or upcoming product launches.

ERAs are expected to handle this “material non-public information carefully.” Which means that they must establish, maintain and enforce written policies and procedures designed to prevent the misuse of such information. These measures could include restricting access to material non-public information within the firm, implementing a “need-to-know” policy and monitoring trades to detect and prevent insider trading.

By doing so, ERAs can help ensure compliance with their fiduciary duties and regulatory requirements, while protecting their clients’ interests and maintaining their trust.

Bottom Line

A pair of exempt reporting advisers look over Form ADV Part I documentation before submitting it to the SEC.

Exempt reporting advisers (ERAs) play a unique and vital role in the investment advisory landscape. They cater to private funds with less than $150 million in assets under management and/or venture capital funds. Despite exemptions from certain registration requirements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), ERAs are bound by fiduciary duties and must comply with defined regulations to ensure transparency, accountability and investor protection. This includes regular reporting to the SEC, maintaining written compliance manuals and handling material non-public information with utmost care.

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