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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

White Remembers NAVgate and Third Avenue Focused Credit

Reported by Neil Anderson, Managing Editor

Mary Jo White has Third Avenue Focused Credit's collapse, "NAVgate," and cybersecurity on the brain.

Mary Jo White
Securities and Exchange Commission
Chair of Security and Exchange Commission
This morning White, the Chair of the SEC, delivered the opening keynote speech at the Mutual Fund Directors Forum (MFDF) 2016 policy conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C.

In speaking to the attending fund directors, White favorably referenced the "independent watchdog" label for independent fund directors. She called them "critically important," a "very constructive force for enhancing governance of mutual funds and protecting investors."

She called on fund directors "to be vigilant" in their duties, to ask "tough questions of fund management." She reminded directors of both the August 2015 BNY Mellon "NAVgate" pricing scandal and the December 2015 collapse of Third Avenue's focused credit fund, though she named neither BNY Mellon nor Third Avenue. She even suggested that directors consider whether or not their funds' strategies, if involving less liquid investments, are truly "appropriate for a daily liquidity structure" in a mutual fund.

"It's simply not enough in today's environment and markets to be reactive to contingencies," White said. "We all need to be proactive, thinking ahead and planning ahead."

White also mentioned another hot topic, cyber security, and she urged directors to "think more broadly about the emerging problems of tomorrow." She specifically mentioned the idea of ensuring that a fund's board includes people with a diversity of expertise and skills, to be better equipped to deal with issues like cybersecurity, derivatives, distribution, liquidity, and trading.

White closed by praising most fund directors and reassuring attendees that the SEC is not out to get them.

"Most fund directors exercise their responsibilities effectively," White says. "Judgments made [by fund directors] in good faith, based on responsibly fulfilling their duties, will not be second-guessed." 

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