The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that is has voted to adopt a new rule and form amendments that are designed to modernize the regulation of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), by establishing a clear and consistent framework for the vast majority of ETFs operating today. The adoption will facilitate greater competition and innovation in the ETF marketplace, leading to more choice for investors. It also will allow ETFs to come to market more quickly without the time or expense of applying for individual exemptive relief. In addition, the Commission voted to issue an exemptive order that further harmonizes related relief for broker-dealers.
“Since ETFs were first developed over 27 years ago, they have provided investors with a number of benefits, including access to a wide array of investment strategies, in many cases at a low cost,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton. “As the ETF industry continues to grow in size and importance, particularly to Main Street investors, it is important to have a consistent, transparent, and efficient regulatory framework that eliminates regulatory hurdles while maintaining appropriate investor protections.”
ETFs are hybrid investment products not originally allowed under the U.S. securities laws. Their shares trade on an exchange like a stock or closed-end fund, but they also allow identified large institutions to transact directly with the fund. Since 1992, the Commission has issued more than 300 exemptive orders allowing ETFs to operate under the Investment Company Act. ETFs have grown substantially in that period, and today there are approximately 2,000 ETFs with over $3.3 trillion in total net assets. Investors use ETFs for a variety of purposes, including core components of long-term investment portfolios, investment of temporary cash holdings, and for hedging portfolios.
ETFs relying on the rule and related exemptive order will have to comply with certain conditions designed to protect investors, including conditions regarding transparency and disclosure. To help create a consistent ETF regulatory framework, one year after the effective date of the rule, the Commission is rescinding exemptive relief previously granted to certain ETFs, including those that will be permitted to operate in reliance on the rule. The rule and form amendments will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but there will be a one-year transition period for compliance with the form amendments.