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Silas Partners I, LLC et al.; Notice of Application

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Start Preamble Start Printed Page 15919 March 27, 2007.

AGENCY:

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

ACTION:

Notice of an application for an order under sections 6(b) and 6(e) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (the “Act”) granting an exemption from all provisions of the Act, except section 9 and sections 36 and 53, and the rules and regulations under the Act. With respect to sections 17 and 30 of the Act, and the rules and regulations thereunder, and rule 38a-1 under the Act, the exemption is limited as set forth in the application.

SUMMARY OF APPLICATION:

Applicants request an order to exempt certain investment funds formed for the benefit of eligible current and former employees of Winston & Strawn LLP and its affiliates from certain provisions of the Act. Each fund will be an “employees” securities company” as defined in section 2(a)(13) of the Act.

APPLICANTS:

Silas Partners I, LLC (the “Investment Fund”) and Winston & Strawn LLP (together with any business organization that results from a reorganization of Winston & Strawn LLP into a different type of business organization or into an entity organized under the laws of another jurisdiction, the “Firm”).

FILING DATES:

The application was filed on April 24, 2000 and amended on March 16, 2007. Applicants have agreed to file an amendment during the notice period, the substance of which is reflected in this notice.

HEARING OR NOTIFICATION OF HEARING:

An order granting the application will be issued unless the Commission orders a hearing. Interested persons may request a hearing by writing to the Commission's Secretary and serving applicants with a copy of the request, personally or by mail. Hearing requests should be received by the Commission by 5:30 p.m. on April 23, 2007 and should be accompanied by proof of service on applicants, in the form of an affidavit or, for lawyers, a certificate of service. Hearing requests should state the nature of the writer's interest, the reason for the request, and the issues contested. Persons who wish to be notified of a hearing may request notification by writing to the Commission's Secretary.

ADDRESSES:

Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F St., NE., Washington, DC 20549-1090. Applicants, 35 West Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60601.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jean Minarick, Senior Counsel, at (202) 551-6811, or Nadya Roytblat, Assistant Director, at (202) 551-6821, (Division of Investment Management, Office of Investment Company Regulation).

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The following is a summary of the application. The complete application may be obtained for a fee at the Commission's Public Reference Branch, 100 F St., NE., Washington, DC 20549-0102 (tel. 202-551-5850).

Applicants' Representations

1. The Firm is a law firm organized as an Illinois limited liability partnership. The Firm and its “affiliates,” as defined in rule 12b-2 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), are referred to collectively as the “Winston Group” and individually as a “Winston Entity.” The shareholders of the Firm are referred to as “Partners.”

2. The Investment Fund is a Delaware limited liability company. The applicants may in the future offer additional pooled investment vehicles identical in all material respects to the Investment Fund (other than investment objectives and strategies) (the “Subsequent Funds”) (together, the Investment Fund and the Subsequent Funds are referred to as the “Funds”). The applicants anticipate that each Subsequent Fund will also be structured as a limited liability company, although a Subsequent Fund could be structured as a limited partnership, corporation, trust or other business organization formed as an “employees” securities company” within the meaning of the section 2(a)(13) of the Act. The Funds will operate as non-diversified, closed-end management investment companies. The Funds will be established to enable the Partners and certain employees of Winston Group to participate in certain investment opportunities that come to the attention of Winston Group. Participation as investors in the Funds will allow the Eligible Investors, as defined below, to diversify their investments and to have the opportunity to participate in investments that might not otherwise be available to them or that might be beyond their individual means.

3. A group of Eligible Investors, as defined below, appointed by the Firm, who are current or retired Partners of the Firm (the “Managers”) will manage the Funds. The Funds will have one or more investment committees (“Investment Committees”), each member of which shall be a current Partner. The Managers shall appoint the members of each Investment Committee. The Managers or any person involved in the operation of the Funds will register as investment advisers if required under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, or the rules under that Act.

4. Interests in the Funds (“Interests”) will be offered without registration in reliance on section 4(2) of the Securities Act of 1933 (the “Securities Act”) or Regulation D under the Securities Act, or any successor rule, and will be sold solely to Eligible Investors. Eligible Investors consist of “Eligible Employees,” “Qualified Investment Vehicles,” “Immediate Family Members,” each as defined below, and Winston Entities. The term “Fund Investors” refers to Eligible Investors who invest in the Funds. Prior to offering Interests in a Fund to an individual, the Managers must reasonably believe that the individual is a sophisticated investor capable of understanding and evaluating the risks of participating in the Fund without the benefit of regulatory safeguards. An “Eligible Employee” is a person who is, at the time of investment, a current or former Partner of the Firm or an employee of the Winston Group who (a) meets the standards of an “accredited investor” set forth in rule 501(a)(5) or rule 501(a)(6) of Regulation D under the Securities Act, or (b) is one of 35 or fewer Partners or employees of the Winston Group who meets certain requirements (“Category 2 investors”).

5. Each Category 2 investor will be a Partner or an employee of the Winston Group, who meets the sophistication requirements set forth in rule 506(b)(2)(ii) of Regulation D under the Securities Act and who (a) has a graduate degree, has a minimum of 3 years of business and/or professional experience, has had compensation of at least $150,000 in the preceding 12 month period, and has a reasonable expectation of compensation of at least $150,000 in each of the 2 immediately succeeding 12 month periods, or (b) is a “knowledgeable employee,” as defined in rule 3c-5 under the Act, of the Fund (with the Fund treated as though it were a “Covered Company” for purposes of the rule). In addition, a Category 2 investor qualifying under (a) above will not be permitted to invest in any calendar or fiscal year (as determined by the Firm) more than 10% of his or her income from all sources for the immediately preceding calendar or fiscal year in one or more Funds. Start Printed Page 15920

6. A Qualified Investment Vehicle is a trust or other entity the sole beneficiaries of which are Eligible Employees or their Immediate Family Members or the settlors and trustees of which consist of Eligible Employees or Eligible Employees together with Immediate Family Members. Immediate Family Members include any parent, child, spouse of a child, spouse, brother or sister, and includes any step and adoptive relationships. A Qualified Investment Vehicle must be either (a) an accredited investor as defined in rule 501(a) of Regulation D or (b) an entity for which an Eligible Employee is a settlor and principal investment decision-maker and counted toward the 35 non-accredited Fund Investors.[1]

7. Each Fund may issue its Interests in series (each, a “Series” and collectively, the “Series”) with new Series of Interests being offered from time to time. Each Series will represent an interest in some or all of those Fund investments made by the Fund during a specified period of time (the “Investment Period”).

8. The terms of a Fund will be fully disclosed in the private placement memorandum of the Fund, and each Eligible Investor will receive a private placement memorandum and the Fund's limited liability company agreement (or other organizational documents) prior to his or her investment in the Fund. Each Fund will send its Fund Investors annual reports, which will contain audited financial statements with respect to those Series in which the Fund Investor has Interests, as soon as practicable after the end of each fiscal year. In addition, as soon as practicable after the end of each fiscal year, the Funds will send a report to each Fund Investor setting forth such tax information as shall be necessary for the preparation by the Fund Investor of his or her federal and state tax returns.

9. Fund Investors will be permitted to transfer their Interests only with the express consent of the Managers. The Managers do not anticipate giving such consent. Any such transfer must be to another Eligible Investor. No fee of any kind will be charged in connection with the sale of Interests.

10. The Managers may require a Fund Investor to withdraw from a Fund if: (a) A Fund Investor ceases to be an Eligible Investor; (b) a Fund Investor is no longer deemed to be able to bear the economic risk of investment in a Fund; (c) adverse tax consequences were to inure to the Fund were a particular Fund Investor to remain; or (d) the continued membership of the Fund Investor would violate applicable law or regulations. In addition, the Firm reserves the right to impose vesting provisions on a Fund Investor's investments in a Fund. In an investment program that provides for vesting provisions, all or a portion of a Fund Investor's Interests will be treated as unvested, and vesting will occur through the passage of a specified period of time. After the end of a Series' Investment Period, to the extent a Fund Investor's Interests become “vested,” the termination of such Fund Investor's association or employment with the Firm will not affect the Fund Investor's rights with respect to the vested Interests. Following the Investment Period, any portion of a Fund Investor's Interests that are unvested at the time of the termination of a Fund Investor's association or employment with the Firm may be subject to repurchase or cancellation by the Fund. Upon any repurchase or cancellation of all or a portion of a Fund Investor's Interests, a Fund will at a minimum pay to the Fund Investor the lesser of (a) the amount actually paid by the Fund Investor to acquire the Interests less the amount of any distributions received by that Fund Investor from the Fund (plus interest at or above the prime rate, as determined by the Managers) and (b) the fair market value of the Interests determined at the time of repurchase or cancellation, as determined in good faith by the Managers. Any interest owed to a Fund Investor pursuant to (a) above will begin to accrue at the end of the Investment Period.

11. The Firm may be reimbursed by a Fund for reasonable and necessary out-of-pocket costs directly associated with the organization and operation of the Funds, including administrative and overhead expenses. There will be no allocation of any of the Firm's operating expenses to a Fund. In addition, the Firm may allocate to a Series any out-of-pocket expenses specifically attributable to the organization and operation of that Series. No separate management fee will be charged to a Fund by the Managers for their services.

12. The Funds may borrow from Winston Group, a Partner, or a bank or other financial institution, provided that a Fund will not borrow from any person if the borrowing would cause any person not named in section 2(a)(13) of the Act to own outstanding securities of the Fund (other than short-term paper). Any borrowings by a Fund will be non-recourse other than to the Winston Group. If a Winston Entity or a Partner makes a loan to the Funds, the interest rate on the loan will be no less favorable to the Funds than the rate that could be obtained on an arm's length basis.

13. No Fund will acquire any security issued by a registered investment company if immediately after the acquisition the Fund would own more than 3% of the outstanding voting stock of the registered investment company.

Applicants' Legal Analysis

1. Section 6(b) of the Act provides, in part, that the Commission will exempt employees' securities companies from the provisions of the Act to the extent that the exemption is consistent with the protection of investors. Section 6(b) provides that the Commission will consider, in determining the provisions of the Act from which the company should be exempt, the company's form of organization and capital structure, the persons owning and controlling its securities, the price of the company's securities and the amount of any sales load, how the company's funds are invested, and the relationship between the company and the issuers of the securities in which it invests. Section 2(a)(13) defines an employees' securities company as any investment company all of whose securities (other than short-term paper) are beneficially owned (a) by current or former employees, or persons on retainer, of one or more affiliated employers, (b) by immediate family members of such persons, or (c) by such employer or employers together with any of the persons in (a) or (b).

2. Section 7 of the Act generally prohibits investment companies that are not registered under section 8 of the Act from selling or redeeming their securities. Section 6(e) provides that, in connection with any order exempting an investment company from any provision of section 7, certain provisions of the Act, as specified by the Commission, will be applicable to the company and other persons dealing with the company as though the company were registered under the Act. Applicants request an order under sections 6(b) and 6(e) of the Act exempting the Funds from all provisions of the Act, except section 9 and sections 36 through 53, and the rules and regulations under the Act. With respect to sections 17 and 30 of the Act, and the rules and regulations thereunder, and rule 38a-1 under the Act, the exemption is limited as set forth in the application.

3. Section 17(a) generally prohibits any affiliated person of a registered investment company, or any affiliated person of an affiliated person, acting as Start Printed Page 15921principal, from knowingly selling or purchasing any security or other property to or from the company. Applicants request an exemption from section 17(a) to permit a Fund to: (a) Purchase, from the Firm or any affiliated person thereof, securities or interests in properties previously acquired for the account of the Firm or any affiliated person thereof; (b) sell, to the Firm or any affiliated person thereof, securities or interests in properties previously acquired by the Funds; (c) invest in companies, partnerships or other investment vehicles offered, sponsored or managed by the Firm or any affiliated person thereof; and (d) purchase interests in any company or other investment vehicle (i) in which the Firm owns 5% or more of the voting securities, or (ii) that otherwise is an affiliated person of the Fund (or an affiliated person of such a person) or an affiliated person of the Firm.

4. Applicants state that an exemption from section 17(a) is consistent with the protection of investors and the purposes of the Act. Applicants state that the Fund Investors will be informed in the Fund's private placement memorandum of the possible extent of the Fund's dealings with the Firm or any affiliated person thereof. Applicants also state that, as financially sophisticated professionals, Fund Investors will be able to evaluate the attendant risks. Applicants assert that the community of interest among the Fund Investors and the Firm will provide the best protection against any risk of abuse.

5. Section 17(d) of the Act and rule 17d-1 under the Act prohibit any affiliated person or principal underwriter of a registered investment company, or any affiliated person of an affiliated person or principal underwriter, acting as principal, from participating in any joint arrangement with the company unless authorized by the Commission. Applicants request relief to permit affiliated persons of each Fund, or affiliated persons of any of these persons, to participate in any joint arrangement in which the Fund is a participant. Joint transactions in which a Fund may participate could include the following: (a) An investment by one or more Funds in a security in which the Firm or its affiliated person, or another Fund, is a participant, or with respect to which the Firm or an affiliated person is entitled to receive fees (including, but not limited to, legal fees, placement fees, investment banking fees, brokerage commissions, or other economic benefits or interests); (b) an investment by one or more Funds in an investment vehicle sponsored, offered or managed by the Firm; and (c) an investment by one or more Funds in a security in which an affiliate is or may become a participant.

6. Applicants state that compliance with section 17(d) would cause the Funds to forego investment opportunities simply because a Fund Investor, the Firm or other affiliates of the Fund also had made or contemplated making a similar investment. In addition, because investment opportunities of the types considered by the Funds often require that each participant make available funds in an amount that may be substantially greater than that available to the investor alone, there may be certain attractive opportunities of which a Fund may be unable to take advantage except as a co-participant with other persons, including affiliates. Applicants note that, in light of the Firm's purpose of establishing the Funds so as to reward Eligible Investors and to attract highly qualified personnel to the Firm, the possibility is minimal that an affiliated party investor will enter into a transaction with a Fund with the intent of disadvantaging the Fund. Finally, applicants contend that the possibility that a Fund may be disadvantaged by the participation of an affiliate in a transaction will be minimized by compliance with the lockstep procedures described in condition 4 below. Applicants assert that the flexibility to structure co-investments and joint investments will not involve abuses of the type section 17(d) and rule 17d-1 were designed to prevent.

7. Section 17(f) of the Act designates the entities that may act as investment company custodians, and rule 17f-2 allows an investment company to act as self-custodian, subject to certain requirements. Applicants request an exemption from section 17(f) and rule 17f-2 to permit the following exceptions from the requirements of rule 17f-2: (a) A Fund's investments may be kept in the locked files of the Firm or of a Partner; (b) for purposes of paragraph (d) of the rule, (i) employees of the Firm will be deemed employees of the Funds, (ii) the Managers of a Fund will be deemed to be officers of the Fund; and (iii) the Managers of a Fund will be deemed to be the board of directors of the Fund; and (c) in place of the verification procedures under paragraph (f) of the rule, verification will be effected quarterly by two employees of the Firm. Applicants assert that the securities held by the Funds are most suitably kept in the Firm's files, where they can be referred to as necessary.

8. Section 17(g) and rule 17g-1 generally require the bonding of officers and employees of a registered investment company who have access to its securities or funds. Rule 17g-1 requires that a majority of directors who are not interested persons (“disinterested directors”) take certain actions and give certain approvals relating to fidelity bonding. Paragraph (g) of rule 17g-1 sets forth certain materials relating to the fidelity bond that must be filed with the Commission and certain notices relating to the fidelity bond that must be given to each member of the investment company's board of directors. Paragraph (h) of rule 17g-1 provides that an investment company must designate one of its officers to make the filings and give the notices required by paragraph (g). Paragraph (j) of rule 17g-1 exempts a joint insured bond provided and maintained by an investment company and one or more other parties from section 17(d) of the Act and the rules thereunder. Rule 17g-1(j)(3) requires that the board of directors of an investment company satisfy the fund governance standards defined in rule 0-1(a)(7).

9. Applicants request an exemption from section 17(g) and rule 17g-1 to the extent necessary to permit each Fund to comply with rule 17g-1 without the necessity of having a majority of the disinterested directors take such action and make such approvals as are set forth in the rule. Specifically, each Fund will comply by having the Managers take such actions and make such approvals as are set forth in rule 17g-1. Applicants state that, because the Managers will be interested persons of the Fund, a Fund could not comply with rule 17g-1 without the requested relief. Applicants also request an exemption from the requirements of rule 17g-1(g) and (h) relating to the filing of copies of fidelity bonds and related information with the Commission and the provision of notices to the board of directors and from the requirements of rule 17g-1(j)(3). Applicants believe the filing requirements are burdensome and unnecessary as applied to the Funds. The Managers will maintain the materials otherwise required to be filed with the Commission by rule 17g-1(g) and agree that all such material will be subject to examination by the Commission and its staff. The Managers will designate a person to maintain the records otherwise required to be filed with the Commission under paragraph (g) of the rule. Applicants also state that the notices otherwise required to be given to the board of directors would be unnecessary as the Funds will not have boards of directors. The Funds will Start Printed Page 15922comply with all other requirements of rule 17g-1.

10. Section 17(j) and paragraph (b) of rule 17j-1 make it unlawful for certain enumerated persons to engage in fraudulent or deceptive practices in connection with the purchase or sale of a security held or to be acquired by a registered investment company. Rule 17j-1 also requires that every registered investment company adopt a written code of ethics and that every access person of a registered investment company report personal securities transactions. Applicants request an exemption from the requirements of rule 17j-1, except for the anti-fraud provisions of paragraph (b), because they are unnecessarily burdensome as applied to the Funds.

11. Applicants request an exemption from the requirements in sections 30(a), 30(b) and 30(e), and the rules under those sections, that registered investment companies prepare and file with the Commission and mail to their shareholders certain periodic reports and financial statements. Applicants contend that the forms prescribed by the Commission for periodic reports have little relevance to the Funds and would entail administrative and legal costs that outweigh any benefit to the Fund Investors. Applicants request exemptive relief to the extent necessary to permit each Fund to report annually to its Fund Investors. Applicants also request an exemption from section 30(h) to the extent necessary to exempt the Managers of each Fund and any other persons who may be deemed members of an advisory board of a Fund from filing Forms 3, 4 and 5 under section 16 of the Exchange Act with respect to their ownership of Interests in the Fund. Applicants assert that, because there will be no trading market and the transfers of Interests will be severely restricted, these filings are unnecessary for the protection of investors and burdensome to those required to make them.

12. Rule 38a-1 requires investment companies to adopt, implement and periodically review written policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent violation of the federal securities laws and to appoint a chief compliance officer. The Funds will comply with rule 38a-1(a), (c) and (d), except that (a) since the Funds do not have boards of directors, the Managers will fulfill the responsibilities assigned to a Fund's board of directors under the rule, and (b) since the Managers are not disinterested persons of the Funds, approval by a majority of the disinterested board members required by rule 38a-1 will not be obtained.

Applicants' Conditions

The applicants agree that any order granting the requested relief will be subject to the following conditions:

1. Each proposed transaction to which a Fund is a party otherwise prohibited by section 17(a) or section 17(d) and rule 17d-1 (each, a “Section 17 Transaction”) will be effected only if the Managers determine that: (a) The terms of the Section 17 Transaction, including the consideration to be paid or received, are fair and reasonable to the Fund Investors of the participating Fund and do not involve overreaching of the Fund or its Fund Investors on the part of any person concerned; and (b) the Section 17 Transaction is consistent with the interests of the Fund Investors of the participating Fund, the Fund's organizational documents and the Fund's reports to its Fund Investors.

In addition, the Managers will record and preserve a description of such Section 17 Transactions, their findings, the information or materials upon which their findings are based and the basis therefor. All such records will be maintained for the life of a Fund and at least six years thereafter, and will be subject to examination by the Commission and its staff. All such records will be maintained in an easily accessible place for at least the first two years.

2. If purchases or sales are made by a Fund from or to an entity affiliated with the Fund by reason of a Partner or employee of the Winston Group (a) serving as an officer, director, general partner or investment adviser of the entity, or (b) having a 5% or more investment in the entity, such individual will not participate in the Fund's determination of whether or not to effect the purchase or sale.

3. The Managers will adopt, and periodically review and update, procedures designed to ensure that reasonable inquiry is made, prior to the consummation of any Section 17 Transaction, with respect to the possible involvement in the transaction of any affiliated person or promoter of or principal underwriter for the Funds, or any affiliated person of such a person, promoter, or principal underwriter.

4. The Managers will not make on behalf of a Fund any investment in which a Co-Investor, as defined below, has or proposes to acquire the same class of securities of the same issuer, where the investment involves a joint enterprise or other joint arrangement within the meaning of rule 17d-1 in which the Fund and the Co-Investor are participants, unless any such Co-Investor, prior to disposing all or part of its investment, (a) gives the Managers sufficient, but not less than one day's, notice of its intent to dispose of its investment, and (b) refrains from disposing of its investment unless the participating Fund holding such investment has the opportunity to dispose of its investment prior to or concurrently with, on the same terms as, and on a pro rata basis with the Co-Investor. The term “Co-Investor” with respect to any Fund means any person who is (a) an “affiliated person” (as defined in section 2(a)(3) of the Act) of the Fund; (b) the Winston Group; (c) a Partner, lawyer, or employee of the Winston Group; (d) an investment vehicle offered, sponsored, or managed by the Firm or an affiliated person of the Firm; or (e) an entity in which a Winston Entity acts as a general partner or has a similar capacity to control the sale or other disposition of the entity's securities.

The restrictions contained in this condition, however, shall not be deemed to limit or prevent the disposition of an investment by a Co-Investor: (a) To its direct or indirect wholly-owned subsidiary, to any company (a “parent”) of which the Co-Investor is a direct or indirect wholly-owned subsidiary, or to a direct or indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of its parent; (b) to Immediate Family Members of the Co-Investor or a trust established for any such Immediate Family Member; (c) when the investment is comprised of securities that are listed on a national securities exchange registered under section 6 of the Exchange Act; or (d) when the investment is comprised of securities that are national market system securities pursuant to section 11A(a)(2) of the Exchange Act and rule 11Aa2-1 thereunder.

5. The Managers of each Fund will send to each person who was a Fund Investor in such Fund at any time during the fiscal year then ended audited financial statements of the Fund and with respect to those Series in which the Fund Investor held Interests. At the end of each fiscal year, the Managers will make a valuation or have a valuation made of all of the assets of the Series as of the fiscal year end in a manner consistent with customary practice with respect to the valuation of assets of the kind held by the Fund. In addition, as soon as practicable after the end of each fiscal year of each Fund, the Managers of the Fund shall send a report to each person who was a Fund Investor at any time during the fiscal year then ended, setting forth such tax information as shall be necessary for the preparation by the Fund Investor of his Start Printed Page 15923or her federal and state income tax returns and a report of the investment activities of such Fund during such year.

6. Each Fund and the Managers of each Fund will maintain and preserve, for the life of each Series of that Fund and at least six years thereafter, such accounts, books and other documents as constitute the record forming the basis for the audited financial statements and annual reports of such Series to be provided to its Fund Investors, and agree that all such records will be subject to examination by the Commission and its staff. All such records will be maintained in an easily accessible place for at least the first two years.

Start Signature

For the Commission, by the Division of Investment Management, pursuant to delegated authority.

Florence E. Harmon,

Deputy Secretary.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

Footnotes

1.  If a Qualified Investment Vehicle is an entity other than a trust, (a) the reference to “settlor” shall be construed to mean a person who created the vehicle, alone or together with others, and who contributed funds or other assets to the vehicle, and (b) the reference to “trustee” shall be construed to mean a person who performs functions similar to those of a trustee.

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[FR Doc. E7-6081 Filed 4-2-07; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 8010-01-P