SEC levies $18 million fine for mishandling MNPI
On November 19, the SEC announced that an investment company affiliate of a global consulting firm agreed to pay $18 million to settle alleged compliance failures. The affiliate provided investment services to current and former partners and employees of the consulting firm. The SEC alleged that the affiliate failed to maintain adequate policies and procedures to prevent firm partners from misusing material nonpublic information (MNPI) gained from consulting clients to make investment decisions. The SEC alleged that the affiliate invested hundreds of millions of dollars in companies that the firm was advising. According to the SEC, certain firm partners oversaw these investments and had access to MNPI, such as financial results, planned bankruptcy filings, mergers and acquisitions, among other things, as a result of the consulting work they did for the firm.
According to the cease-and-desist order, allowing active firm partners, “individuals who had access to MNPI about issuers in which [affiliate] funds were invested, to oversee and monitor [the affiliate’s] investment decisions presented an ongoing risk of misuse of MNPI.” The SEC claimed that the affiliate allegedly violated Sections 204A and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (related to the prevention and misuse of MNPI and prohibited investment adviser transactions), as well as Rule 206(4)-7 (concerning compliance policies and procedures). Without admitting or denying the findings, the affiliate consented to the entry of the cease-and-desist order, a censure, and the $18 million penalty.