Westport’s Lime Rock Management among 10 firms fined by SEC for campaign contribution violations

By Kevin Zimmerman

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Lime Rock Management of Westport is among 10 investment advisory firms that have agreed to pay penalties to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The fees, ranging from $35,000 to $100,000, are to settle charges that they violated the SEC’s investment adviser pay-to-play rule by receiving compensation from public pension funds within two years after campaign contributions made by the firms’ associates.

According to the SEC’s orders, investment advisers are subject to a two-year timeout from providing compensatory advisory services either directly to a government client or through a pooled investment vehicle after political contributions were made to a candidate who could influence the investment adviser selection process for a public pension fund or appoint someone with such influence.

The SEC’s orders found that the 10 firms violated the two-year timeout by accepting fees from city or state pension funds after their associates made campaign contributions to elected officials or political candidates with the potential to wield influence over those pension funds.

“The two-year timeout is intended to discourage pay-to-play practices in the investment of public money, including public pension funds,” said LeeAnn Ghazil Gaunt, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Public Finance Abuse Unit.  “Advisory firms must be mindful of the restrictions that can arise from campaign contributions made by their associates.”

Without admitting or denying the findings, the 10 firms consented to the SEC’s orders finding they violated Section 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-5.  The firms are censured and must pay the following monetary penalties:

Adams Capital Management (Sewickley, Pennsylvania), $45,000; Aisling Capital (New York City), $70,456; Alta Communications (Boston), $35,000; Commonwealth Venture Management Corp. (Woburn, Massachusetts), $75,000; Cypress Advisors (Austin, Texas), $35,000; FFL Partners (San Francisco), $75,000; Lime Rock Management (Westport), $75,000; NGN Capital (New York City), $100,000; Pershing Square Capital Management (New York City), $75,000; and The Banc Funds Co. (Chicago), $75,000.

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