What is The Securities Act of 1940?

The Securities Act of 1940 is a law passed by Congress and administered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to regulate and prevent fraudulent conduct by money managers, investment consultants and financial planners. These various investment advisers are required to operate against a code of conduct set forth under the Act to ensure that all conflicts of interest between them and their clients are eliminated. The Act subjects advisers to five kinds of requirements: fiduciary duties to clients; substantive prohibitions and requirements; contractual requirements; record-keeping requirements; and oversight and inspection by the SEC.

Amendments to the Act require investment advisers with more than $25 million under management to register with the SEC. The Act also delineates investment advisers’ liability while giving structure around what fees and commissions advisers can collect from their clients.

The Wall Street crash of 1929, which precipitated the Great Depression, was the impetus for the creation of the Securities Act of 1940. More specifically, the SEC published a report on investment trusts and investment companies in 1935 that warned against giving certain investment advisers free reign. The report recommended they be monitored and regulated to guard against the dispensing of advice that favors—whether consciously or not—the advisers’ own financial interests.

Investment advisers must file Form ADV electronically with the SEC via IARD (the Investment Adviser Registration Depository) and state securities authorities on an annual basis. On Part 1 of this form, investments advisers are required to include their educational background, experience, exact type of business they’re engaged in, assets, information on clients, history of a legal and/or criminal nature, and type of investment advice they offer. Part 2 of Form ADV comprises the narrative brochure that advisers must share with their clients. When filed, Form ADV is made available to the public on the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Disclosure website.

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