- Cybersecurity Risk Management Rules: The Proposed Rules would require registered advisers and funds (including SEC-registered business development companies) to implement and maintain policies and procedures to address cybersecurity risks, including risk assessments; controls designed to minimize user-related risks and prevent unauthorized access to information and systems; periodic assessments of information systems and the information stored on such systems; threat and vulnerability management; incident response and recovery; annual review and required written reports; and recordkeeping.
- Reporting of Significant Cybersecurity Incidents: The Proposed Rules would require registered advisers promptly to report significant cybersecurity incidents under new rule 304-6 by submitting new Form ADV-C. Specifically, advisers would file a report “48 hours after having a reasonable basis to conclude that a significant adviser cybersecurity incident or a significant fund cybersecurity incident occurred or is occurring.” The SEC defined a significant cybersecurity incident as one that “significantly disrupts or degrades the adviser’s ability, or the ability of a private fund client of the adviser, to maintain critical operations, or leads to the unauthorized access or use of adviser information, where the unauthorized access or use of such information results in: (1) substantial harm to the adviser, or (2) substantial harm to a client, or an investor in a private fund, whose information was accessed.”
- Disclosure of Cybersecurity Risks and Incidents: The SEC’s amendments would require registered advisers and funds to disclose cybersecurity matters in Form ADV Part 2A for advisers and Forms N-1A, N-2, N-3, N-4, N-6, N-8B-2, and S-6 for funds.
- Fund Boards: Registered fund boards would have specific duties under the Proposed Rule for funds. Following a required initial approval of a fund’s cybersecurity policies and procedures, fund directors over time would review reports on cyberincidents and material changes to policies and procedures. Echoing language used in other SEC releases, the SEC adds that “Board oversight should not be a passive activity.”
The SEC established a public comment period as the later of April 11, 2022 (60 days after the SEC issued its release), or 30 days after the Federal Register publishes the Proposed Release. The SEC’s proposing release seeks comment on more than 60 detailed issues.
Commissioner Hester Peirce published a statement dissenting to the Proposed Rules. Commissioner Peirce said that she disagrees with framing the Proposed Rules for advisers as antifraud under the Advisers Act, stating that the fraudulent and deceptive acts covered in the Proposing Rules are “not ones in which the adviser is the perpetrator, but the victim.” To further make her point, Commissioner Peirce recited language from the Proposed Rule that would make it “unlawful for any investment adviser registered or required to be registered … to provide investment advice to clients unless the adviser adopts and implements written policies and procedures that are reasonably designed to address the adviser’s cybersecurity risks ....” She then observed that if the rule is read literally, should an adviser not follow these rules, any investment advice it provides to clients is illegal — what she described as an “extreme” penalty with “no apparent logical connection.” Commissioner Peirce also discussed the current cybersecurity protections in place, such as Regulation S-P and Regulation S-ID, and recommended that the SEC issue guidance as opposed to a rule.
Other initial reactions to the Proposed Rules have been mixed. Some observers question the need for the rules; some ask whether they are too specific and risk becoming dated; and many are concerned that the proposed real-time and after-the-fact reporting of cybersecurity incidents will have unintended consequences including distraction of time and resources from actual response at that critical moment and even signaling of vulnerabilities to bad actors.
These Proposed Rules may not be the only upcoming SEC cybersecurity regulation. During a speech on January 24, 2022, Chair Gary Gensler signaled that there may be forthcoming guidance related to public companies’ cybersecurity programs and risk disclosures. For information related to current best practices related to cybersecurity, see Sidley’s recent blog post on the topic or contact a member of the Sidley team.