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What is the Investment Advisors Act of 1940?

The Investment Advisors Act of 1940 (IAA) marked a critical shift in the regulation of the investment advisory industry, deemed a matter of public concern and warranting federal oversight. Born in an era when the financial industry was under increased scrutiny due to the after-effects of the Great Depression, the IAA sought to bring transparency, accountability, and fairness to the advisory services sector. It did so by laying out the framework of defining investment advisors, handling fraud, advertising, and the protection of non-public client information, among other things.

Setting Boundaries: Definition and Jurisdiction

One of the significant feats of the IAA was the establishment of clear definitions for investment advisors and the advice they provide. By stipulating precise roles and capacities, the IAA aimed to prevent any ambiguity that could give rise to fraudulent practices or exploitation of investors. Furthermore, the Act brought investment advisors under the jurisdiction of federal and state laws and mandated their registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), enforcing accountability and regulatory compliance. It's important to note, though, the IAA's jurisdiction was primarily limited to securities, excluding most insurance and futures contracts, which were governed by a different set of laws and agencies.

Navigating Transparency: Disclosures and Client Fund Management

The IAA laid substantial emphasis on transparency, necessitating advisors to make necessary disclosures and handle client funds with utmost diligence. The Act sought to ensure that clients were well informed and protected, keeping their best interests at heart. It facilitated this through Form ADV, a detailed annual report that advisors are required to fill out and submit, outlining their practices, affiliations, and any potential conflicts of interest.

Exception Handling and Penalties

The IAA not only established rules but also a system for handling exceptions, hearings, and arbitration. It empowered the regulatory authorities to take appropriate action against advisors found guilty of breaching the Act's stipulations, thereby instilling a sense of fairness and integrity within the industry.

Public Accessibility and Information: Investment Advisor Registration Depository (IARD)

In furtherance of its commitment to transparency and accessibility, the IAA established the Investment Advisor Registration Depository (IARD), maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). This database is publicly accessible and contains comprehensive information about all registered investment advisors, providing an additional layer of assurance and accessibility to investors.

More than 80 years later, the IAA continues to serve as a cornerstone in the regulation of investment advisory services. It serves as a blueprint for ensuring integrity, transparency, and accountability within the industry. While the financial landscape has seen vast changes since 1940, the core principles laid down by the IAA hold steadfast, protecting the interests of investors and shaping the standards for the investment advisory industry.


The IAA sought to regulate an industry that was deemed to be of public concern and within the Federal jurisdiction, though it did define some state-specific jurisdictions.

It defines investment advisors and made laws dealing with fraud, advertising, non-public client information, disclosures, handling of client funds, and so forth. The Investment Advisors Act of 1940 established definitions for the capacity in which an investment adviser and investment advice could be defined, and made rules concerning the standards by which advisors should operate.

It stipulated that all advisors must register with the SEC and be subject to the federal and state laws which pertained to the solicitation and proffering of financial advise. The scope of this act only covered securities and did not cover most insurance contracts or futures contracts.

Futures and the advisors who deal with them are regulated by a separate set of laws and agencies. The IAA established a system for annual reports in Form ADV, gave general prohibitions, exceptions, a system for hearings and arbitration, and defined penalties for wrongdoing.

The Investment Advisor Registration Depository (IARD) is maintained by FINRA, and is a publicly accessible database of all registered investment advisors.

What is the Investment Advisor Registration Depository (IARD)?
What is the Investment Company Act of 1940?

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