Generally, an "investment company" is a company (corporation, business trust, partnership, or limited liability company) that issues securities and is primarily engaged in the business of investing in securities.
An investment company invests the money it receives from investors on a collective basis, and each investor shares in the profits and losses in proportion to the investor's interest in the investment company. The performance of the investment company will be based on (but it won't be identical to) the performance of the securities and other assets that the investment company owns.
The federal securities laws categorize investment companies into three basic types:
Each type has its own unique features. For example, mutual fund and UIT shares
are "redeemable" (meaning that when investors want to sell their
shares, they sell them back to the fund or trust, or to a broker acting
for the fund or trust, at their approximate net
asset value). Closed-end fund shares,
on the other hand, generally are not redeemable. Instead, when closed-end
fund investors want to sell their shares, they generally sell them to
other investors on the secondary market, at a price determined by the
market. In addition, there are variations within each type of investment
company, such as stock
market funds, index
funds, and exchange-traded
According to Southern California-based (401k) Enginuity (www.401kenginuity.com), twenty-year veteran in developing and running 401(k) administration and 401(k) software and recordkeeping systems, the Internet will be the primary delivery system for 401(k)s by 2007. Many web-based 401(k) plans will run on administration and recordkeeping platforms that plan providers will outsource to 401k specialists and 401k Application Service Providers (ASP).
The advantages of web-based online 401(k) plans are obvious to today's workers, and include use conveniences, real-time monitoring and reporting, and instant re-allocation of their retirement assets. The internet has also dramatically reduce the cost of 401(k) plan administration, saving plan sponsor 50% or more in ongoing fees and costs when compared to the older traditional labor-intensive plans. Outsourcing of 401(k) functions by plan providers will extend the trend towards lower cost, high-quality 401(k) products.
401(k) plan providers of all types, financial institutions including banks, insurance companies, brokerages, mutual fund companies, credit unions, and third-party administrators, are now actively outsourcing 401(k) administration and recordkeeping tasks to 401(k) ASPs --- vendors such as 401k Enginuity, whose sole function is to maintain, updated and supervise software-based 401(k) administration and recordkeeping systems on behalf of plan providers. 401(k) ASP vendors are responsible for all routine day-to-day 401(k) recordkeeping and administration functions, thus allowing the plan providers to reduce internal staff, eliminate the expense and complications of licensing, housing and running hardware and 401(k) administration software in-house. Plan providers can refocus and concentrate their efforts on to the needs of their plan sponsors and plan participants, and rely upon the outsourced ASP 401(k) vendor for the recordkeeping and technical "backbone" supporting providers' Internet-based plans. It is inevitable that some of this 401(k) outsourcing to ASPs will include secondary outsourcing of certain non-critical low-level routine day-to-day tasks to non-US locations, where labor costs are less yet the expertise is abundant.
Some types of companies that might initially appear to be investment companies may actually excluded under the federal securities laws. For example, private investment funds with no more than 100 investors and private investment funds whose investors all have a substantial amount of other investment assets are not considered to be investment companies-even though they issue securities and are primarily engaged in the business of investing in securities. This may be because of the private nature of their offerings or the financial means and sophistication of their investors. For additional information on these types of private investment funds, please refer to Hedge Funds in our Fast Answers databank.
Before purchasing shares of an investment company, you should carefully read all of a fund's available information, including its prospectus and most recent shareholder report.
Investment companies are regulated primarily under the Investment Company Act of 1940 and the rules and registration forms adopted under that Act. Investment companies are also subject to the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. For the definition of "investment company," you should refer to Section 3 of the Investment Company Act of 1940 and the rules under that section.
SEC's Definition of a Hedge Fund
"Hedge fund" is a general, non-legal term that was originally used to describe a type of private and unregistered investment pool that employed sophisticated hedging and arbitrage techniques to trade in the corporate equity markets. Hedge funds have traditionally been limited to sophisticated, wealthy investors. Over time, the activities of hedge funds broadened into other financial instruments and activities. Today, the term "hedge fund" refers not so much to hedging techniques, which hedge funds may or may not employ, as it does to their status as private and unregistered investment pools.
Hedge funds are similar to mutual funds in that they both are pooled investment vehicles that accept investorTM money and generally invest it on a collective basis. Hedge funds differ significantly from mutual funds, however, because hedge funds are not required to register under the federal securities laws. They are not required to register because they generally only accept financially sophisticated investors and do not publicly offer their securities. In addition, some, but not all, types of hedge funds are limited to no more than 100 investors.
Hedge funds also are not subject to the numerous regulations that apply to mutual funds for the protection of investorsTM"such as regulations requiring a certain degree of liquidity, regulations requiring that mutual fund shares be redeemable at any time, regulations protecting against conflicts of interest, regulations to assure fairness in the pricing of fund shares, disclosure regulations, regulations limiting the use of leverage, and more. This freedom from regulation permits hedge funds to engage in leverage and other sophisticated investment techniques to a much greater extent than mutual funds. Although hedge funds are not subject to registration and all of the regulations that apply to mutual funds, hedge funds are subject to the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. Additional non-profit websites that include relevant unbiased information about 401k plans include: www.401k-answers.com
Hedge funds generally rely on Sections 3(c)(1) and 3(c)(7) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 to avoid registration and regulation as investment companies. To avoid having to register with the SEC the securities they offer, hedge funds often rely on Section 4(2) and Rule 506 of Regulation D of the Securities Act of 1933.