This case involves CFA Institute Standard V(A): Diligence and Reasonable Basis, which requires CFA Institute members to exercise diligence, independence, and thoroughness in analyzing investments and making investment recommendations. In choosing hedge fund investments for his clients, Soto must undertake appropriate due diligence in evaluating the funds for potential investment for his clients. Does Soto’s actions meet the due diligence and reasonable basis requirement of the CFA Institute Code and Standards? Soto takes many steps to thoroughly evaluate the hedge fund investments, including consistently applying written policies and procedures when engaging in due diligence; holding in-person meetings at the funds’ offices to understand the investment strategy, evaluate the manager, meet with key personnel, and make sure the investment is suitable for his clients; investigating the auditor of the fund when it is unfamiliar; having the legal documents of the fund reviewed; and using the funds’ own statements and promotional material in an effort to accurately describe the fund to his clients.
But some of Soto’s actions may not have been as strong as they could be, leading him to miss potential red flags. Although he adopts due diligence policies and procedures, he does not disseminate those to clients. He does background checks of fund personnel only when he sees a “red flag” leading him to miss potential conflicts of interest on the part of fund personnel. He does not check employment history, legal and regulatory matters, news sources, and independent references of firm personnel. He checks on a fund’s strategy and suitability for his clients, but he does not regularly go back to check the fund for style drift. He does not independently verify the relationships with certain fund service providers (administrators, custodians) and looks into the auditor only when he is not already familiar with them, potentially missing business relationship or other conflicts of interests that could undermine their independence. He outsources the legal document review to a third party, which may be appropriate if Soto does not have legal expertise but could be an issue if the third-party review is not thorough or as complete as necessary. Finally, by relying on the marketing material of the fund and not creating his own independent information for his clients, he could be providing false or misleading information prepared by the fund itself. Assessing due diligence is a very facts and circumstances specific exercise. If a client were to challenge Soto’s due diligence efforts as insufficient under Standard V(A), whether his diligence is adequate would likely depend on the specific facts of the case. This case is based on a 2014 Risk Alert by the US SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations.