Licensing requirements under the Investment Code (KAGB) and the ongoing debate at EU level on the distinction of closed and open ended alternative investment funds (AIFs)

There is currently an ongoing discussion about the criteria of demarcation between closed and open ended funds between the European Commission and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). The determination of these criteria is relevant not only with regard to compliance obligations of the asset management companies – in particular with respect to rules related to liquidity management-, but also with regard to the application of the transitional provisions of the KAGB.

Depending on whether a fund is classified as open ended or closed, different rules apply. This is in particular decisive for the question whether the management of funds preexisting to the entry into force of the KAGB requires a license according to the KAGB and thus whether the respective manager of an AIF shall submit an application for a license.

ESMA set the frequency of redemption opportunities as a criterion for the distinction between open ended and closed AIFs. An annual redemption frequency should lead to a classification as open-ended AIFs. An AIF should be deemed closed if the redemption possibility is provided less than once annually.

The application of this criterion was rejected by the European Commission; hence ESMA has developed a new proposal (2013/ESMA/1119), which provides that any possibility of redemption of the investor prior to the liquidation of the AIF leads to a classification as open-ended AIF. In addition, ESMA proposes to apply the currently applicable Member States’ law for the transitional provisions. This solution would provide legal certainty for those managers of AIFs that operate without a license on the basis of preexisting investment management contracts.

It remains to be seen how the European Commission will react on this new proposal.

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