November 21, 2019.
Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”).
Notice of an application under section 6(c) of the Investment Company Act of 1940 (“Act”) for an exemption from section 15(a) of the Act, as well as from certain disclosure requirements in rule 20a-1 under the Act, Item 19(a)(3) of Form N-1A, Items 22(c)(1)(ii), 22(c)(1)(iii), 22(c)(8) and 22(c)(9) of Schedule 14A under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“1934 Act”), and sections 6-07(2)(a), (b), and (c) of Regulation S-X (“Disclosure Requirements”).
Applicants: North Square Investments Trust (the “Trust”), a Delaware statutory trust registered under the Act as an open-end management investment company with multiple series (each a “Fund”) and North Square Investments, LLC (“Adviser”), a Delaware limited liability company registered as an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) that serves an investment adviser to the Funds (collectively with the Trust, the “Applicants”).
Summary of Application: The requested exemption would permit Applicants to enter into and materially amend subadvisory agreements with subadvisers without shareholder approval and would grant relief from the Disclosure Requirements as they relate to fees paid to the subadvisers.
Filing Dates: The application was filed on September 27, 2018, and amended on April 12, 2019, July 19, 2019, August 27, 2019, and October 24, 2019.
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 December 16, 2019, and should be accompanied by proof of service on the Applicants, in the form of an affidavit or, for lawyers, a certificate of service. Pursuant to rule 0-5 under the Act, hearing requests should state the nature of the writer's interest, any facts bearing upon the desirability of a hearing on the matter, 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.
Secretary, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street NE, Washington, DC 20549-1090. Applicants: Alan E. Molotsky, Esq., North Square Investments, LLC, 10 South LaSalle Street, Suite 1925, Chicago, IL 60603.
Start Further Info
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Stephan N. Packs, Senior Attorney, at (202) 551-6853, or David J. Marcinkus, Branch Chief, at (202) 551-6825 (Division of Investment Management, Chief Counsel's Office).
End Further Info
Start Supplemental Information
The following is a summary of the application. The complete application may be obtained via the Commission's website by searching for the file number or an Applicant using the “Company” name box, at http://www.sec.gov/search/search.htm or by calling (202) 551-8090.
I. Requested Exemptive Relief
1. Applicants request an order to permit the Adviser,
subject to the approval of the board of trustees of each Trust (collectively, the “Board”),
including a majority of the trustees who are not “interested persons” of the Trust or the Adviser, as defined in section 2(a)(19) of the Act (the “Independent Trustees”), without obtaining shareholder approval, to: (i) Select investment subadvisers (“Subadvisers”) for all or a portion of the assets of one or more of the Funds pursuant to an investment subadvisory agreement with each Subadviser (each a “Subadvisory Agreement”); and (ii) materially amend Subadvisory Agreements with the Subadvisers.
2. Applicants also request an order exempting the Subadvised Funds (as defined below) from the Disclosure Requirements, which require each Fund to disclose fees paid to a Subadviser. Applicants seek relief to permit each Subadvised Fund to disclose (as a dollar amount and a percentage of the Fund's net assets): (i) The aggregate fees paid to the Adviser and any Wholly-Owned Subadvisers; and (ii) the aggregate fees paid to Affiliated and Non-Affiliated Subadvisers (“Aggregate Fee Disclosure”).
Applicants seek an exemption to permit a Subadvised Fund to include only the Aggregate Fee Disclosure.
3. Applicants request that the relief apply to Applicants, as well as to any future Fund and any other existing or future registered open-end management investment company or series thereof that intends to rely on the requested order in the future and that: (i) Is advised by the Adviser; (ii) uses the multi-manager structure described in the application; and (iii) complies with the terms and conditions of the Start Printed Page 65198application (each, a “Subadvised Fund”).
II. Management of the Subadvised Funds
4. The Adviser serves or will serve as the investment adviser to each Subadvised Fund pursuant to an investment advisory agreement with the Fund (each an “Investment Advisory Agreement”). Each Investment Advisory Agreement has been or will be approved by the Board, including a majority of the Independent Trustees, and by the shareholders of the relevant Subadvised Fund in the manner required by sections 15(a) and 15(c) of the Act. The terms of these Investment Advisory Agreements comply or will comply with section 15(a) of the Act. Applicants are not seeking an exemption from the Act with respect to the Investment Advisory Agreements. Pursuant to the terms of each Investment Advisory Agreement, the Adviser, subject to the oversight of the Board, will provide continuous investment management for each Subadvised Fund. For its services to each Subadvised Fund, the Adviser receives or will receive an investment advisory fee from that Fund as specified in the applicable Investment Advisory Agreement.
5. Consistent with the terms of each Investment Advisory Agreement, the Adviser may, subject to the approval of the Board, including a majority of the Independent Trustees, and the shareholders of the applicable Subadvised Fund (if required by applicable law), delegate portfolio management responsibilities of all or a portion of the assets of a Subadvised Fund to a Subadviser. The Adviser will retain overall responsibility for the management and investment of the assets of each Subadvised Fund. This responsibility includes recommending the removal or replacement of Subadvisers, allocating the portion of that Subadvised Fund's assets to any given Subadviser and reallocating those assets as necessary from time to time.
The Subadvisers will be “investment advisers” to the Subadvised Funds within the meaning of Section 2(a)(20) of the Act and will provide investment management services to the Funds subject to, without limitation, the requirements of Sections 15(c) and 36(b) of the Act.
The Subadvisers, subject to the oversight of the Adviser and the Board, will determine the securities and other investments to be purchased, sold or entered into by a Subadvised Fund's portfolio or a portion thereof, and will place orders with brokers or dealers that they select.
6. The Subadvisory Agreements will be approved by the Board, including a majority of the Independent Trustees, in accordance with sections 15(a) and 15(c) of the Act. In addition, the terms of each Subadvisory Agreement will comply fully with the requirements of section 15(a) of the Act. The Adviser may compensate the Subadvisers or the Subadvised Funds may compensate the Subadvisers directly.
7. Subadvised Funds will inform shareholders of the hiring of a new Subadviser pursuant to the following procedures (“Modified Notice and Access Procedures”): (a) Within 90 days after a new Subadviser is hired for any Subadvised Fund, that Fund will send its shareholders either a Multi-manager Notice or a Multi-manager Notice and Multi-manager Information Statement 
; and (b) the Subadvised Fund will make the Multi-manager Information Statement available on the website identified in the Multi-manager Notice no later than when the Multi-manager Notice (or Multi-manager Notice and Multi-manager Information Statement) is first sent to shareholders, and will maintain it on that website for at least 90 days.
III. Applicable Law
8. Section 15(a) of the Act states, in part, that it is unlawful for any person to act as an investment adviser to a registered investment company “except pursuant to a written contract, which contract, whether with such registered company or with an investment adviser of such registered company, has been approved by the vote of a majority of the outstanding voting securities of such registered company.”
9. Form N-1A is the registration statement used by open-end investment companies. Item 19(a)(3) of Form N-1A requires a registered investment company to disclose in its statement of additional information the method of computing the “advisory fee payable” by the investment company with respect to each investment adviser, including the total dollar amounts that the investment company “paid to the adviser (aggregated with amounts paid to affiliated advisers, if any), and any advisers who are not affiliated persons of the adviser, under the investment advisory contract for the last three fiscal years.”
10. Rule 20a-1 under the Act requires proxies solicited with respect to a registered investment company to comply with Schedule 14A under the 1934 Act. Items 22(c)(1)(ii), 22(c)(1)(iii), 22(c)(8) and 22(c)(9) of Schedule 14A, taken together, require a proxy statement for a shareholder meeting at which the advisory contract will be voted upon to include the “rate of compensation of the investment adviser,” the “aggregate amount of the investment adviser's fee,” a description of the “terms of the contract to be acted upon,” and, if a change in the advisory fee is proposed, the existing and proposed fees and the difference between the two fees.
11. Regulation S-X sets forth the requirements for financial statements required to be included as part of a registered investment company's registration statement and shareholder reports filed with the Commission. Sections 6-07(2)(a), (b), and (c) of Regulation S-X require a registered investment company to include in its Start Printed Page 65199financial statements information about investment advisory fees.
12. Section 6(c) of the Act provides that the Commission may exempt any person, security, or transaction or any class or classes of persons, securities, or transactions from any provisions of the Act, or any rule thereunder, if such exemption is necessary or appropriate in the public interest and consistent with the protection of investors and the purposes fairly intended by the policy and provisions of the Act. Applicants state that the requested relief meets this standard for the reasons discussed below.
IV. Arguments in Support of the Requested Relief
13. Applicants assert that, from the perspective of the shareholder, the role of the Subadvisers is substantially equivalent to the limited role of the individual portfolio managers employed by an investment adviser to a traditional investment company. Applicants also assert that the shareholders expect the Adviser, subject to review and approval of the Board, to select a Subadviser who is in the best position to achieve the Subadvised Fund's investment objective. Applicants believe that permitting the Adviser to perform the duties for which the shareholders of the Subadvised Fund are paying the Adviser—the selection, oversight and evaluation of the Subadviser—without incurring unnecessary delays or expenses of convening special meetings of shareholders is appropriate and in the interest of the Fund's shareholders, and will allow such Fund to operate more efficiently. Applicants state that each Investment Advisory Agreement will continue to be fully subject to section 15(a) of the Act and approved by the relevant Board, including a majority of the Independent Trustees, in the manner required by section 15(a) and 15(c) of the Act.
14. Applicants submit that the requested relief meets the standards for relief under section 6(c) of the Act. Applicants state that the operation of the Subadvised Fund in the manner described in the Application must be approved by shareholders of that Fund before it may rely on the requested relief. Applicants also state that the proposed conditions to the requested relief are designed to address any potential conflicts of interest or economic incentives, and provide that shareholders are informed when new Subadvisers are hired.
15. Applicants contend that, in the circumstances described in the application, a proxy solicitation to approve the appointment of new Subadvisers provides no more meaningful information to shareholders than the proposed Multi-manager Information Statement. Applicants state that, accordingly, they believe the requested relief is necessary or appropriate in the public interest, and consistent with the protection of investors and the purposes fairly intended by the policy and provisions of the Act.
16. With respect to the relief permitting Aggregate Fee Disclosure, Applicants assert that disclosure of the individual fees paid to the Subadvisers does not serve any meaningful purpose. Applicants contend that the primary reasons for requiring disclosure of individual fees paid to Subadvisers are to inform shareholders of expenses to be charged by a particular Subadvised Fund and to enable shareholders to compare the fees to those of other comparable investment companies. Applicants believe that the requested relief satisfies these objectives because the Subadvised Fund's overall advisory fee will be fully disclosed and, therefore, shareholders will know what the Subadvised Fund's fees and expenses are and will be able to compare the advisory fees a Subadvised Fund is charged to those of other investment companies. In addition, Applicants assert that the requested relief would benefit shareholders of the Subadvised Fund because it would improve the Adviser's ability to negotiate the fees paid to Subadvisers. In particular, Applicants state that if the Adviser is not required to disclose the Subadvisers' fees to the public, the Adviser may be able to negotiate rates that are below a Subadviser's “posted” amounts. Applicants assert that the relief will also encourage Subadvisers to negotiate lower subadvisory fees with the Adviser if the lower fees are not required to be made public.
V. Relief for Affiliated Subadvisers
17. The Commission has granted the requested relief with respect to Wholly-Owned and Non-Affiliated Subadvisers through numerous exemptive orders. The Commission also has extended the requested relief to Affiliated Subadvisers.
Applicants state that although the Adviser's judgment in recommending a Subadviser can be affected by certain conflicts, they do not warrant denying the extension of the requested relief to Affiliated Subadvisers. Specifically, the Adviser faces those conflicts in allocating fund assets between itself and a Subadviser, and across Subadvisers, as it has an interest in considering the benefit it will receive, directly or indirectly, from the fee the Subadvised Fund pays for the management of those assets. Applicants also state that to the extent the Adviser has a conflict of interest with respect to the selection of an Affiliated Subadviser, the proposed conditions are protective of shareholder interests by ensuring the Board's independence and providing the Board with the appropriate resources and information to monitor and address conflicts.
18. With respect to the relief permitting Aggregate Fee Disclosure, Applicants assert that it is appropriate to disclose only aggregate fees paid to Affiliated Subadvisers for the same reasons that similar relief has been granted previously with respect to Wholly-Owned and Non-Affiliated Subadvisers.
VI. Applicants' Conditions
Applicants agree that any order granting the requested relief will be subject to the following conditions:
1. Before a Subadvised Fund may rely on the order requested in the Application, the operation of the Subadvised Fund in the manner described in the Application will be, or has been, approved by a majority of the Subadvised Fund's outstanding voting securities as defined in the Act, or, in the case of a Subadvised Fund whose public shareholders purchase shares on the basis of a prospectus containing the disclosure contemplated by condition 2 below, by the initial shareholder before such Subadvised Fund's shares are offered to the public.
2. The prospectus for each Subadvised Fund will disclose the existence, substance and effect of any order granted pursuant to the Application. In addition, each Subadvised Fund will hold itself out to the public as employing the multi-manager structure described in the Application. The prospectus will prominently disclose that the Adviser has the ultimate responsibility, subject to oversight by the Board, to oversee the Subadvisers and recommend their hiring, termination, and replacement.
3. The Adviser will provide general management services to each Subadvised Fund, including overall supervisory responsibility for the general management and investment of the Subadvised Fund's assets, and subject to review and oversight of the Board, will (i) set the Subadvised Fund's overall investment strategies, (ii) evaluate, select, and recommend Start Printed Page 65200Subadvisers for all or a portion of the Subadvised Fund's assets, (iii) allocate and, when appropriate, reallocate the Subadvised Fund's assets among Subadvisers, (iv) monitor and evaluate the Subadvisers' performance, and (v) implement procedures reasonably designed to ensure that Subadvisers comply with the Subadvised Fund's investment objective, policies and restrictions.
4. Subadvised Funds will inform shareholders of the hiring of a new Subadviser within 90 days after the hiring of the new Subadviser pursuant to the Modified Notice and Access Procedures.
5. At all times, at least a majority of the Board will be Independent Trustees, and the selection and nomination of new or additional Independent Trustees will be placed within the discretion of the then-existing Independent Trustees.
6. Independent Legal Counsel, as defined in Rule 0-1(a)(6) under the Act, will be engaged to represent the Independent Trustees. The selection of such counsel will be within the discretion of the then-existing Independent Trustees.
7. Whenever a Subadviser is hired or terminated, the Adviser will provide the Board with information showing the expected impact on the profitability of the Adviser.
8. The Board must evaluate any material conflicts that may be present in a subadvisory arrangement. Specifically, whenever a subadviser change is proposed for a Subadvised Fund (“Subadviser Change”) or the Board considers an existing Subadvisory Agreement as part of its annual review process (“Subadviser Review”):
(a) the Adviser will provide the Board, to the extent not already being provided pursuant to section 15(c) of the Act, with all relevant information concerning:
(i) any material interest in the proposed new Subadviser, in the case of a Subadviser Change, or the Subadviser in the case of a Subadviser Review, held directly or indirectly by the Adviser or a parent or sister company of the Adviser, and any material impact the proposed Subadvisory Agreement may have on that interest;
(ii) any arrangement or understanding in which the Adviser or any parent or sister company of the Adviser is a participant that (A) may have had a material effect on the proposed Subadviser Change or Subadviser Review, or (B) may be materially affected by the proposed Subadviser Change or Subadviser Review;
(iii) any material interest in a Subadviser held directly or indirectly by an officer or Trustee of the Subadvised Fund, or an officer or board member of the Adviser (other than through a pooled investment vehicle not controlled by such person); and
(iv) any other information that may be relevant to the Board in evaluating any potential material conflicts of interest in the proposed Subadviser Change or Subadviser Review.
(b) the Board, including a majority of the Independent Trustees, will make a separate finding, reflected in the Board minutes, that the Subadviser Change or continuation after Subadviser Review is in the best interests of the Subadvised Fund and its shareholders and, based on the information provided to the Board, does not involve a conflict of interest from which the Adviser, a Subadviser, any officer or Trustee of the Subadvised Fund, or any officer or board member of the Adviser derives an inappropriate advantage.
9. Each Subadvised Fund will disclose in its registration statement the Aggregate Fee Disclosure.
10. In the event that the Commission adopts a rule under the Act providing substantially similar relief to that in the order requested in the Application, the requested order will expire on the effective date of that rule.
11. Any new Subadvisory Agreement or any amendment to an existing Investment Advisory Agreement or Subadvisory Agreement that directly or indirectly results in an increase in the aggregate advisory fee rate payable by the Subadvised Fund will be submitted to the Subadvised Fund's shareholders for approval.
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For the Commission, by the Division of Investment Management, under delegated authority.
Eduardo A. Aleman,
[FR Doc. 2019-25672 Filed 11-25-19; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 8011-01-P