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Notice

Self-Regulatory Organizations; NYSE Arca, Inc.; Order Granting Approval of Proposed Rule Change Relating to Listing and Trading of the WisdomTree Brazil Bond Fund Under NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600

 

Table of Contents Back to Top

I. Introduction Back to Top

On March 23, 2012, NYSE Arca, Inc. (“Exchange” or “NYSE Arca”) filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”), pursuant to Section 19(b)(1) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Act”) [1] and Rule 19b-4 thereunder, [2] a proposed rule change to list and trade shares (“Shares”) of the WisdomTree Brazil Bond Fund (“Fund”) under NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600. The proposed rule change was published for comment in the Federal Register on April 11, 2012. [3] The Commission received no comments on the proposal. This order grants approval of the proposed rule change.

II. Description of the Proposed Rule Change Back to Top

The Exchange proposes to list and trade the Shares of the Fund pursuant to NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600, which governs the listing and trading of Managed Fund Shares on the Exchange. The Shares will be offered by WisdomTree Trust (“Trust”), a Delaware statutory trust registered with the Commission as an investment company. [4] The investment adviser to the Fund is WisdomTree Asset Management, Inc. (“Adviser”). The Fund's sub-adviser is Western Asset Management Company (“Sub-Adviser”). ALPS Distributors, Inc. serves as the distributor for the Trust. The Bank of New York Mellon is the administrator, custodian, and transfer agent for the Trust.

The Exchange represents that the Adviser is not affiliated with a broker-dealer. The Sub-Adviser is affiliated with multiple broker-dealers and has implemented a “fire wall” with respect to such broker-dealers regarding access to information concerning the composition and/or changes to the Fund's portfolio. In addition, Sub-Adviser personnel who make decisions on the Fund's portfolio composition are subject to procedures designed to prevent the use and dissemination of material non-public information regarding the Fund's portfolio. [5]

Description of the Fund

The Fund will seek to provide investors with a high level of total return consisting of both income and capital appreciation. The Fund will be designed to provide exposure to a broad range of Brazilian government and corporate bonds through investment in both local currency (i.e., Brazilian real) and U.S. dollar-denominated Fixed Income Securities, which will include bonds, notes, or other debt obligations, including loan participation notes (“LPNs”), [6] inflation-linked debt, and debt securities issued by “supranational issuers,” such as the European Investment Bank, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the International Finance Corporation, as well as development agencies supported by other national governments. The Fund may invest to a lesser extent in Money Market Securities and derivative instruments, as described below.

The Fund will be designed to provide broad exposure to Brazilian government and corporate bonds and will invest in a range of instruments with varying credit risk and duration. The Fund intends to invest in bonds and debt instruments issued by the government of Brazil and its agencies and instrumentalities and bonds and other debt instruments issued by corporations organized in Brazil. [7] The Fund also may invest in bonds and debt instruments denominated in Brazilian real and issued by supranational issuers, as described above. The Fund intends to invest at least 70% of its net assets in Fixed Income Securities. The Fund will invest only in corporate bonds that the Adviser or Sub-Adviser deems to be sufficiently liquid. Generally a corporate bond must have $200 million or more par amount outstanding and significant par value traded to be considered as an eligible investment. Economic and other conditions in Brazil may, from time to time, lead to a decrease in the average par amount outstanding of bond issuances. Therefore, although the Fund does not intend to do so, the Fund may invest up to 20% of its net assets in corporate bonds with less than $200 million par amount outstanding, including up to 5% of its assets in corporate bonds with less than $100 million par amount outstanding, if (i) the Adviser or Sub-Adviser deems such security to be sufficiently liquid based on its analysis of the market for such security (based on, for example, broker-dealer quotations or its analysis of the trading history of the security or the trading history of other securities issued by the issuer), (ii) such investment is consistent with the Fund's goal of providing exposure to a broad range of Brazilian government and corporate bonds, and (iii) such investment is deemed by the Adviser or Sub-Adviser to be in the best interest of the Fund.

The Fund typically will maintain aggregate portfolio duration of between two and ten years. Aggregate portfolio duration is a measure of the portfolio's sensitivity to changes in the level of interest rates. The Fund's actual portfolio duration may be longer or shorter depending upon market conditions.

The universe of Brazilian Fixed Income Securities currently includes securities that are rated “investment grade” as well as “non-investment grade” securities. The Fund is designed to provide a broad-based, representative exposure to Brazilian government and corporate bonds and therefore will invest in both investment grade and non-investment grade securities in a manner designed to provide this exposure. The Fund currently expects that it will have 65% or more of its assets invested in investment grade securities, and no more than 35% of its assets invested in non-investment grade securities. Because the Fund is designed to provide exposure to a broad range of Brazilian government and corporate bonds, and because the debt ratings of the Brazilian government and those corporate issuers will change from time to time, the exact percentage of the Fund's investments in investment grade and non-investment grade securities will change from time to time in response to economic events and changes to the credit ratings of the Brazilian government and corporate issuers. [8] Within the non-investment grade category, some issuers and instruments are considered to be of lower credit quality and at higher risk of default. In order to limit its exposure to these more speculative credits, the Fund will not invest more than 15% of its assets in securities rated B or below by Moody's, or equivalently rated by S&P or Fitch. The Fund does not intend to invest in unrated securities. However, it may do so to a limited extent, such as where a rated security becomes unrated, if such security is determined by the Adviser and Sub-Adviser to be of comparable quality. In determining whether a security is of “comparable quality,” the Adviser and Sub-Adviser will consider, for example, whether the issuer of the security has issued other rated securities.

The Fund will hold Fixed Income Securities of at least 13 non-affiliated issuers. The Fund will not concentrate 25% or more of the value of its total assets (taken at market value at the time of each investment) in any one industry, as that term is used in the 1940 Act (except that this restriction does not apply to obligations issued by the U.S. government or its agencies and instrumentalities or government-sponsored enterprises).

The Fund intends to qualify each year as a regulated investment company (“RIC”) under Subchapter M of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. The Fund will invest its assets, and otherwise conduct its operations, in a manner that is intended to satisfy the qualifying income, diversification, and distribution requirements necessary to establish and maintain RIC qualification under Subchapter M. The Subchapter M diversification tests generally require that (i) the Fund invest no more than 25% of its total assets in securities (other than securities of the U.S. government or other RICs) of any one issuer or two or more issuers that are controlled by the Fund and that are engaged in the same, similar, or related trades or businesses, and (ii) at least 50% of the Fund's total assets consist of cash and cash items, U.S. government securities, securities of other RICs, and other securities, with investments in such other securities limited in respect of any one issuer to an amount not greater than 5% of the value of the Fund's total assets and 10% of the outstanding voting securities of such issuer.

In addition to satisfying the above referenced RIC diversification requirements, no portfolio security held by the Fund (other than U.S. government securities) will represent more than 30% of the weight of the portfolio, and the five highest weighted portfolio securities of the Fund (other than U.S. government securities) will not in the aggregate account for more than 65% of the weight of the portfolio. For these purposes, the Fund may treat repurchase agreements collateralized by U.S. government securities as U.S. government securities.

Money Market Securities

The Fund intends to invest in Money Market Securities (as described below) in a manner consistent with its investment objective in order to help manage cash flows in and out of the Fund, such as in connection with payment of dividends or expenses and to satisfy margin requirements, to provide collateral, or to otherwise back investments in derivative instruments. For these purposes, Money Market Securities include: Short-term, high-quality obligations issued or guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury or the agencies or instrumentalities of the U.S. government; short-term, high-quality securities issued or guaranteed by non-U.S. governments, agencies, and instrumentalities; repurchase agreements backed by U.S. government securities; money market mutual funds; and deposits and other obligations of U.S. and non-U.S. banks and financial institutions. All Money Market Securities acquired by the Fund will be rated investment grade. The Fund does not intend to invest in any unrated money market securities. However, it may do so, to a limited extent, such as where a rated Money Market Security becomes unrated, if such Money Market Security is determined by the Adviser or the Sub-Adviser to be of comparable quality.

Derivative Instruments

Consistent with the Exemptive Order, the Fund may use derivative instruments as part of its investment strategies. Examples of derivative instruments include listed futures contracts, [9] forward currency contracts, non-deliverable forward currency contracts, [10] currency swaps (e.g., Brazilian real vs. U.S. dollar), interest rate swaps, [11] total return swaps, [12] currency options, options on futures contracts, and credit-linked notes. [13] The Fund's use of derivative instruments (other than credit-linked notes) will be collateralized or otherwise backed by investments in short term, high-quality U.S. money market securities and other liquid fixed income securities. The Fund expects that no more than 30% of the value of the Fund's net assets will be invested in derivative instruments. Such investments will be consistent with the Fund's investment objective and will not be used to enhance leverage.

With respect to certain kinds of derivative transactions entered into by the Fund that involve obligations to make future payments to third parties, including, but not limited to, futures, forward contracts, swap contracts, the purchase of securities on a when-issued or delayed delivery basis, or reverse repurchase agreements, under applicable federal securities laws, rules, and interpretations thereof, the Fund must “set aside” liquid assets or engage in other measures to “cover” open positions with respect to such transactions.

The Fund may engage in foreign currency transactions and may invest directly in foreign currencies in the form of bank and financial institution deposits, certificates of deposit, and bankers acceptances denominated in a specified non-U.S. currency. The Fund may enter into forward currency contracts in order to “lock in” the exchange rate between the currency it will deliver and the currency it will receive for the duration of the contract. [14]

The Fund may enter into repurchase agreements with counterparties that are deemed to present acceptable credit risks, and may enter into reverse repurchase agreements, which involve the sale of securities held by the Fund subject to its agreement to repurchase the securities at an agreed upon date or upon demand and at a price reflecting a market rate of interest.

The Fund may invest in the securities of other investment companies (including money market funds and exchange-traded funds). The Fund may hold up to an aggregate amount of 15% of its net assets in (1) illiquid securities, (2) Rule 144A securities, and (3) loan interests (such as loan participations and assignments, but not including LPNs). Illiquid securities include securities subject to contractual or other restrictions on resale and other instruments that lack readily available markets. The Fund will not invest in non-U.S. equity securities.

Additional information regarding the Shares and the Fund, including investment strategies, Fixed Income Securities, risks, creation and redemption procedures, fees, portfolio holdings disclosure policies, distributions, and taxes can be found in the Notice and Registration Statement, as applicable. [15]

III. Discussion and Commission's Findings Back to Top

The Commission has carefully reviewed the proposed rule change and finds that it is consistent with the requirements of Section 6 of the Act [16] and the rules and regulations thereunder applicable to a national securities exchange. [17] In particular, the Commission finds that the proposal is consistent with Section 6(b)(5) of the Act, [18] which requires, among other things, that the Exchange's rules be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principles of trade, to foster cooperation and coordination with persons engaged in facilitating transactions in securities, to remove impediments to and perfect the mechanism of a free and open market and a national market system, and, in general, to protect investors and the public interest. The Commission notes that the Fund and the Shares must comply with the requirements of NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600 to be listed and traded on the Exchange.

The Commission finds that the proposal to list and trade the Shares on the Exchange is consistent with Section 11A(a)(1)(C)(iii) of the Act, [19] which sets forth Congress' finding that it is in the public interest and appropriate for the protection of investors and the maintenance of fair and orderly markets to assure the availability to brokers, dealers, and investors of information with respect to quotations for, and transactions in, securities. Quotation and last-sale information for the Shares will be available via the Consolidated Tape Association (“CTA”) high-speed line. In addition, the Portfolio Indicative Value (“PIV”), as defined in NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600(c)(3), will be widely disseminated by one or more major market data vendors at least every 15 seconds during the Exchange's Core Trading Session. [20] On each business day, before commencement of trading in Shares in the Core Trading Session on the Exchange, the Fund will disclose on its Web site the Disclosed Portfolio, as defined in NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600(c)(2), that will form the basis for the Fund's calculation of the NAV at the end of the business day. [21] The NAV of the Fund's Shares generally will be calculated once daily Monday through Friday as of the close of regular trading on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) (generally 4:00 p.m., Eastern time or “E.T.”). In addition, information regarding market price and trading volume of the Shares will be continually available on a real-time basis throughout the day on brokers' computer screens and other electronic services, and the previous day's closing price and trading volume information for the Shares will be published daily in the financial section of newspapers. The Web site for the Fund will include a form of the prospectus for the Fund that may be downloaded, additional data relating to NAV, and other applicable quantitative information, updated on a daily basis. Intra-day and end-of-day prices are readily available through major market data providers and broker-dealers for the Fixed Income Securities, Money Market Securities, and derivative instruments held by the Fund.

The Commission further believes that the proposal to list and trade the Shares is reasonably designed to promote fair disclosure of information that may be necessary to price the Shares appropriately and to prevent trading when a reasonable degree of transparency cannot be assured. The Commission notes that the Exchange will obtain a representation from the issuer of the Shares that the NAV and the Disclosed Portfolio will be made available to all market participants at the same time. [22] In addition, the Exchange will halt trading in the Shares under the specific circumstances set forth in NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600(d)(2)(D), and may halt trading in the Shares if trading is not occurring in the securities and/or the financial instruments comprising the Disclosed Portfolio of the Fund, or if other unusual conditions or circumstances detrimental to the maintenance of a fair and orderly market are present. [23] The Exchange will consider the suspension of trading in or removal from listing of the Shares if the PIV is no longer calculated or available or the Disclosed Portfolio is not made available to all market participants at the same time. [24] While the Adviser is not affiliated with a broker-dealer, the Sub-Adviser is affiliated with multiple broker-dealers and has implemented a “fire wall” with respect to such broker-dealers regarding access to information concerning the composition and/or changes to the Fund's portfolio. [25] Further, the Commission notes that the Reporting Authority that provides the Disclosed Portfolio must implement and maintain, or be subject to, procedures designed to prevent the use and dissemination of material non-public information regarding the actual components of the portfolio. [26] The Exchange states that it has a general policy prohibiting the distribution of material, non-public information by its employees. The Commission also notes that the Fund will not invest in non-U.S. equity securities, and the Exchange may obtain information via the Intermarket Surveillance Group (“ISG”) from other exchanges that are members of ISG or with which the Exchange has in place a comprehensive surveillance sharing agreement. [27]

The Exchange further represents that the Shares are deemed to be equity securities, thus rendering trading in the Shares subject to the Exchange's existing rules governing the trading of equity securities. In support of this proposal, the Exchange has made representations, including:

(1) The Shares will be subject to NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600, which sets forth the initial and continued listing criteria applicable to Managed Fund Shares.

(2) The Exchange has appropriate rules to facilitate transactions in the Shares during all trading sessions.

(3) The Exchange's surveillance procedures applicable to derivative products, which include Managed Fund Shares, are adequate to properly monitor Exchange trading of the Shares in all trading sessions and to deter and detect violations of Exchange rules and applicable federal securities laws.

(4) Prior to the commencement of trading, the Exchange will inform its Equity Trading Permit Holders in an Information Bulletin of the special characteristics and risks associated with trading the Shares. Specifically, the Information Bulletin will discuss the following: (a) The procedures for purchases and redemptions of Shares in Creation Unit aggregations (and that Shares are not individually redeemable); (b) NYSE Arca Equities Rule 9.2(a), which imposes a duty of due diligence on its Equity Trading Permit Holders to learn the essential facts relating to every customer prior to trading the Shares; (c) the risks involved in trading the Shares during the Opening and Late Trading Sessions when an updated PIV will not be calculated or publicly disseminated; (d) how information regarding the PIV is disseminated; (e) the requirement that Equity Trading Permit Holders deliver a prospectus to investors purchasing newly issued Shares prior to or concurrently with the confirmation of a transaction; and (f) trading information.

(5) For initial and/or continued listing, the Fund must be in compliance with Rule 10A-3 under the Act, [28] as provided by NYSE Arca Equities Rule 5.3.

(6) The Fund may hold up to an aggregate amount of 15% of its net assets in: (a) Illiquid securities; (b) Rule 144A securities; and (c) loan interests (such as loan participations and assignments, but not including LPNs).

(7) The Fund expects that no more than 30% of the value of the Fund's net assets will be invested in derivative instruments, and such investments will be consistent with the Fund's investment objective and will not be used to enhance leverage.

(8) The Fund will not invest in non-U.S. equity securities.

(9) A minimum of 100,000 Shares of the Fund will be outstanding at the commencement of trading on the Exchange.

This approval order is based on all of the Exchange's representations.

For the foregoing reasons, the Commission finds that the proposed rule change is consistent with Section 6(b)(5) of the Act [29] and the rules and regulations thereunder applicable to a national securities exchange.

IV. Conclusion Back to Top

It is therefore ordered, pursuant to Section 19(b)(2) of the Act, [30] that the proposed rule change (SR-NYSEArca-2012-25) be, and it hereby is, approved.

For the Commission, by the Division of Trading and Markets, pursuant to delegated authority. [31]

Kevin M. O'Neill,

Deputy Secretary.

[FR Doc. 2012-13145 Filed 5-30-12; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8011-01-P

Footnotes Back to Top

3. See Securities Exchange Act Release No. 66753 (April 6, 2012), 77 FR 21827 (“Notice”).

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4. See Registration Statement on Form N-1A for the Trust under the Securities Act of 1933 (15 U.S.C. 77a) and under the Investment Company Act of 1940 (“1940 Act”), dated October 8, 2010 (File Nos. 333-132380 and 811-21864) (“Registration Statement”). In addition, the Commission has issued an order granting certain exemptive relief to the Trust under the 1940 Act. See Investment Company Act Release No. 28471 (October 27, 2008) (File No. 812-13458) (“Exemptive Order”).

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5. See Commentary .06 to NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600. The Exchange represents that, in the event (a) the Adviser or the Sub-Adviser becomes newly affiliated with a broker-dealer, or (b) any new adviser or sub-adviser becomes affiliated with a broker-dealer, it will implement a fire wall with respect to such broker-dealer regarding access to information concerning the composition and/or changes to the portfolio, and will be subject to procedures designed to prevent the use and dissemination of material non-public information regarding such portfolio.

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6. The Fund may invest in LPNs with a minimum outstanding principal amount of $200 million that the Adviser or Sub-Adviser deems to be liquid. The Adviser represents that the Fund will invest a limited percentage of its assets in LPNs.

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7. The category of “Brazilian debt” includes both U.S. dollar-denominated debt and non-U.S. or “local” currency debt. The market for Brazilian local currency debt is larger and more actively traded than the market for Brazilian U.S. dollar-denominated debt. The Adviser represents that Brazilian sovereign debt is issued in large par size and tends to be very liquid. Real-denominated Brazilian debt issued by supranational entities is also actively traded. Intra-day, executable price quotations on such instruments are available from major broker-dealer firms. Intra-day price information is available through subscription services, such as Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters, which can be accessed by authorized participants and other investors.

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8. As of January 31, 2012, Brazilian government debt was rated investment grade by S&P, Moody's, and Fitch. See http://brasilstocks.com/bonds.

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9. The listed futures contracts in which the Fund may invest will be listed on exchanges either in the U.S. or in Brazil. Brazil's primary financial markets regulator, the Comissao de Valores Mobiliarios, is a signatory to the International Organization of Securities Commissions (“IOSCO”) Multilateral Memorandum of Understanding (“MMOU”), which is a multi-party information sharing arrangement among major financial regulators. Both the Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission are signatories to the IOSCO MMOU.

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10. A forward currency contract is an agreement to buy or sell a specific currency on a future date at a price set at the time of the contract.

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11. An interest rate swap involves the exchange of a floating interest rate payment for a fixed interest rate payment.

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12. A total return swap is an agreement between two parties in which one party agrees to make payments of the total return of a reference asset in return for payments equal to a rate of interest on another reference asset.

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13. The Fund may invest in credit-linked notes. A credit linked note is a type of structured note whose value is linked to an underlying reference asset. Credit linked notes typically provide periodic payments of interest as well as payment of principal upon maturity. The value of the periodic payments and the principal amount payable upon maturity are tied (positively or negatively) to a reference asset such as an index, government bond, interest rate, or currency exchange rate. The ongoing payments and principal upon maturity typically will increase or decrease depending on increases or decreases in the value of the reference asset. The Fund's investments in credit-linked notes will be limited to notes providing exposure to Brazilian Fixed Income Securities. The Fund's overall investment in credit-linked notes will not exceed 25% of the Fund's assets.

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14. The Fund will invest only in currencies, and instruments that provide exposure to such currencies, that have significant foreign exchange turnover and are included in the Bank for International Settlements, Triennial Central Bank Survey, Report on Global Foreign Exchange Market Activity in 2010 December 2010 (“BIS Survey”). The Fund may invest in currencies, and instruments that provide exposure to such currencies, selected from the top 40 currencies (as measured by percentage share of average daily turnover for the applicable month and year) included in the BIS Survey.

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15. See supra notes 3 and 4, respectively.

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17. In approving this proposed rule change, the Commission has considered the proposed rule's impact on efficiency, competition, and capital formation. See 15 U.S.C. 78c(f).

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19. 15 U.S.C. 78k-1(a)(1)(C)(iii).

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20. According to the Exchange, several major market data vendors display and/or make widely available PIVs published on the CTA or other data feeds. In addition, during hours when the markets for Fixed Income Securities in the Fund's portfolio are closed, the PIV will be updated at least every 15 seconds during the Core Trading Session to reflect currency exchange fluctuations.

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21. The Disclosed Portfolio will include, as applicable, the names, quantity, percentage weighting, and market value of Fixed Income Securities and other assets held by the Fund and the characteristics of such assets. The Web site and information will be publicly available at no charge.

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22. See NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600(d)(1)(B) (requiring, in addition, that the Exchange obtain a representation from the issuer of the Shares that the NAV will be calculated daily).

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23. With respect to trading halts, the Exchange may consider all relevant factors in exercising its discretion to halt or suspend trading in the Shares of the Fund. Trading in Shares of the Fund will be halted if the circuit breaker parameters in NYSE Arca Equities Rule 7.12 have been reached. Trading also may be halted because of market conditions or for reasons that, in the view of the Exchange, make trading in the Shares inadvisable.

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24. See NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600(d)(2)(C)(ii).

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25. See supra note 5 and accompanying text. The Commission notes that an investment adviser to an open-end fund is required to be registered under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”). As a result, the Adviser and Sub-Adviser and their related personnel are subject to the provisions of Rule 204A-1 under the Advisers Act relating to codes of ethics. This Rule requires investment advisers to adopt a code of ethics that reflects the fiduciary nature of the relationship to clients as well as compliance with other applicable securities laws. Accordingly, procedures designed to prevent the communication and misuse of non-public information by an investment adviser must be consistent with Rule 204A-1 under the Advisers Act. In addition, Rule 206(4)-7 under the Advisers Act makes it unlawful for an investment adviser to provide investment advice to clients unless such investment adviser has (i) adopted and implemented written policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent violation, by the investment adviser and its supervised persons, of the Advisers Act and the Commission rules adopted thereunder; (ii) implemented, at a minimum, an annual review regarding the adequacy of the policies and procedures established pursuant to subparagraph (i) above and the effectiveness of their implementation; and (iii) designated an individual (who is a supervised person) responsible for administering the policies and procedures adopted under subparagraph (i) above.

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26. See NYSE Arca Equities Rule 8.600(d)(2)(B)(ii).

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27. See Notice, supra note 3.

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