Private equity firm settles SEC pay-to-play caseNews added by Benefits Pro on June 24, 2014
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By Nick Thornton

A Philadelphia-area private equity firm has agreed to settle charges brought by the SEC alleging a violation of “pay-to-play” rules with a city and state pension fund in 2011.

As part of the settlement, TL Ventures Inc. agreed to pay nearly $300,000 in fines, according to the SEC.

This was the first case brought against an institutional investment adviser since rules adopted in 2010 prohibited advisors from providing services and from being compensated for advisory services to a government client for two years following a campaign contribution.

The rules are intended to limit the power of political contributions from investment firms to political officials that can influence the selection of advisors to public pensions.

TL Ventures allegedly continued to receive compensation from Pennsylvania’s State Retirement System and Philadelphia’s pension plan within two years of donations made to a gubernatorial and mayoral campaign.

Philadelphia’s mayor appoints three to nine advisors to the Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement. TL Ventures made a $2,500 donation in that race, though the SEC did not identify to which candidate.

Pennsylvania’s governor appoints six members to its 11-member retirement system board. The SEC didn’t identify which of the candidates in that campaign received the $2,000 donation, but in reporting in the New York Times, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Corbett, R-Pennsylvania, confirmed he received the donation, and that the governor will now voluntarily give an equal amount to charity.

LeeAnn Ghazil Gaunt, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Municipal Securities and Public Pensions Unit, said, “Public pension funds are increasingly investing in alternative investment vehicles such as hedge funds and private equity funds. When dealing with public pension fund clients, advisers to those kinds of investment vehicles should be mindful of the restrictions that can arise from political contributions.”

TL Ventures will give back $256,697 in fees and pay a penalty of $35,000, has agreed to be censured, and will cease and desist from committing or causing any future violations of a similar nature.

According to its website, TL Ventures has invested in over 200 companies since 1998, and has $1.5 billion under management in 20 active portfolio companies.

The firm neither admitted nor denied the charges in consenting to the SEC’s order.

Originally published on BenefitsPro.com
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