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SEC Chair Jay Clayton

Hedge Fund Rules That Keep Out Not-So-Rich Poised for SEC Revamp

The SEC will likely unveil a plan in the coming weeks for updating the accredited investor standard, a bedrock that lays out the criteria for investing in riskier -- and potentially more lucrative -- private funds, said two people familiar with the matter.

(Bloomberg) --U.S. rules that determine who can invest in hedge funds and private equity are poised to get their most sweeping overhaul in years, though it’s unclear how much the changes will expand the pool of potential clients.

In the coming weeks, the Securities and Exchange Commission will likely unveil a plan for updating the accredited investor standard, a bedrock that lays out the criteria for investing in riskier -- and potentially more lucrative -- private funds, said two people familiar with the matter.

The proposed changes could make individuals automatically eligible if they work in certain roles in finance, said the people who asked not to be named because the tweaks haven’t been made public. But in some instances, it might get harder to invest, as the SEC is considering adjusting for inflation qualifications based on income and net worth, the people said.

The revamp may not go as far as some on Wall Street would like, as fund executives have long advocated for looser rules. Still, the proposal would be a significant step for the SEC in responding to the mushrooming market for private investments. The agency has faced pressure in recent years to make it easier for retail clients to invest in fast-growing startups such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Facebook Inc. before they go public.

SEC spokeswoman Chandler Smith Costello declined to comment.

In June, the SEC sought public comment on whether it should relax several restrictions that prevent regular Americans from investing like the wealthy can, including possible changes to the accredited investor standard. Those who are skeptical of changes say they are worried that financial firms will take advantage of unsophisticated clients.

In the SEC’s proposed changes, people could be deemed savvy enough to invest in hedge funds if they hold certain licenses or work in finance, the people said. For instance, employment at a hedge fund could be enough to qualify for certain investments regardless of how much money a potential investor earns, one of the people said.

The plan, which could still change before SEC commissioners vote to propose it, would also index to inflation income and net worth thresholds, the people said. The current requirements that individuals earn $200,000 a year, couples make $300,000, or that investors have a net worth of $1 million haven’t been updated since the 1980s.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Ben Bain in Washington at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Jesse Westbrook at [email protected]

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