Ethics in Practice: Allocating Expenses. Case and Analysis–Week of 22 October
How did you do evaluating this week’s (22 October) case? Check out the analysis below.
Smith is a portfolio manager at an alternative asset management firm, AltInvest LLC. At the direction of her boss, she makes a one-time allocation of the expenses incurred by the Private Credit Opportunities fund to the Private Credit Special Situations fund. Her boss wants to temporarily boost the end-of-year results of the Private Credit Opportunities fund, which has been underperforming. Her boss explains that the Private Credit Special Situations fund closed recently and just entered its long investment period, thus investors in the fund would not yet expect it to deliver good results. In contrast, the investment period of the Private Credit Opportunities fund ended years ago, and its harvesting period is soon coming to an end. Boosting the performance of the Private Credit Opportunities fund also should help attract investors to the Private Credit Opportunities II fund. The consolidated performance results of AltInvest are not affected by the reallocation of expenses between these two funds. Smith’s actions are
- appropriate because the consolidated performance results of AltInvest are not affected by the reallocation of expenses.
- appropriate because the chosen way of reporting is only temporary.
- appropriate because Smith followed the directions of her boss.
This case relates to CFA Institute Standard III(D): Performance Presentation, which states that CFA Institute members must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the investment performance results communicated to their clients are fair, accurate, and complete. Smith’s actions are inappropriate because reallocation of expenses between the two funds renders a misrepresentation and is not a fair, accurate, and complete presentation of the two funds’ performance, even though the consolidated results of AltInvest are not affected. Developing and maintaining clear and accurate communication with clients regarding the performance of their investments is critical because it allows clients to make well-informed decisions about their investment portfolios, including about whether to withdraw their money from underperforming funds or whether to invest in follow-on funds. Any misrepresentation of performance, however temporary, affects investors’ assessment of their investments and subsequently their investment decisions. In this case, Smith made the allocation of expenses at the direction of her boss, who had determined that the temporary boost of the Private Credit Opportunities fund’s end-of-year results would benefit AltInvest. But the interests of an investment professional’s employer are secondary to protecting the interests of clients. In asking Smith to make the reallocation of expenses between the two funds, her employer is acting contrary to Smith’s clients’ interests. Following the direction of a supervisor does not excuse unethical behavior or actions contrary to a client’s best interests. Choice A is the best answer
This case was written by Anna Sembos, CFA, who serves as volunteer with Compliance Connection, an extension of the CFA Institute Global Monitoring Program.
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More About the Ethics in Practice Series
Just as you need to practice to become proficient at playing a musical instrument, public speaking, or playing a sport, practicing assessing and analyzing situations and making ethical decisions develops your ethical decision-making skills. The Ethics in Practice series gives you an opportunity to “exercise” your ethical decision-making skills. Each week, we post a short vignette, drawn from real-world circumstances, regulatory cases, and CFA Institute Professional Conduct investigations, along with possible responses/actions. We then encourage you to assess the case using the CFA Institute Ethical Decision-Making Framework and through the lens of the CFA Institute Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct. Then join the conversation and let us know which of the choices you believe is the right one and explain why. Later in the week, we will post an analysis of the case and you can see how your response compares.
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