Fidelity Investments Canada ULC
National Policy 11-203 Process for Exemptive Relief in Multiple Jurisdictions -- relief granted to permit investment funds subject to National Instrument 81-102 Investment Funds that are "qualified institutional buyers" under the United States Securities Act of 1933 to invest in unregistered fixed income securities that are traded on mature and liquid markets purchased pursuant to Rule 144A of the United States Securities Act of 1933 in excess of the illiquid asset restrictions -- relief subject to conditions.
Applicable Legislative Provisions
National Instrument 81-102 Investment Funds, ss. 1.1, 2.4(1), 2.4(2), 2.4(3) and 19.1.
May 28, 2021
IN THE MATTER OF THE SECURITIES LEGISLATION OF ONTARIO (the Jurisdiction) AND IN THE MATTER OF THE PROCESS FOR EXEMPTIVE RELIEF APPLICATIONS IN MULTIPLE JURISDICTIONS AND IN THE MATTER OF FIDELITY INVESTMENTS CANADA ULC (the Filer)
The principal regulator in the Jurisdiction has received an application from the Filer on behalf of all current and future mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and alternative mutual funds that are, or will be, managed by the Filer or an affiliate of the Filer and to which NI 81-102 (as defined below) applies (collectively, the Funds) for a decision under the securities legislation of the Jurisdiction (the Legislation) that grants exemptive relief to the Funds that:
a) the purchases by a Fund that is a Qualified Institutional Buyer (as defined below) at the time of purchase, of those fixed income securities that qualify for, and may be traded pursuant to, the exemption from the registration requirements of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the US Securities Act), as set out in Rule 144A of the US Securities Act (Rule 144A) for resales of certain fixed income securities (144A Securities) to "qualified institutional buyers" (as defined in the US Securities Act) are exempt from part (b) of the section 1.1 definition of an "illiquid asset" in National Instrument 81-102 Investment Funds (NI 81-102); and
b) a Fund's holdings of 144A Securities purchased as a Qualified Institutional Buyer are excluded from consideration as an "illiquid asset" for the purposes of subsections 2.4(1), 2.4(2) and 2.4(3) of NI 81-102 (collectively, the Exemption Sought).
Under the Process for Exemptive Relief Applications in Multiple Jurisdictions (for a passport application):
a) the Ontario Securities Commission is the principal regulator for the application; and
b) the Filer has provided notice that Section 4.7(1) of Multilateral Instrument 11-102 Passport System (MI 11-102) is intended to be relied upon in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Saskatchewan and Yukon (together with Ontario, the Canadian Jurisdictions).
Terms defined in National Instrument 14-101 Definitions, MI 11-102 and NI 81-102 have the same meaning if used in this decision, unless otherwise defined. In addition to the defined terms used in this decision, capitalized terms used in this decision have the following meanings:
IRC means the independent review committee of the Funds.
Qualified Institutional Buyers has the same meaning as is given to such term in §230.144A of the US Securities Act.
Registered Securities means securities that have been registered with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.
Rule 144 means Rule 144 of the US Securities Act.
This decision is based on the following facts represented by the Filer:
1. The Filer is a corporation amalgamated under the laws of the Province of Alberta with its head office located in Toronto, Ontario.
2. The Filer is registered as an investment fund manager in Ontario, Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador, as a portfolio manager in each of the Canadian Jurisdictions, as a commodity trading manager in Ontario and as a mutual fund dealer in each of the Canadian Jurisdictions.
3. The Filer is, or will be, the investment fund manager of the Funds and the Filer, an affiliate of the Filer or a third-party portfolio manager retained by the Filer is, or will be, the portfolio manager of the Funds.
4. The Filer is not in default of securities legislation in any of the Canadian Jurisdictions.
5. Each Fund is, or will be, an open-ended mutual fund or a class of a mutual fund corporation, including an exchange-traded fund or an alternative mutual fund, organized and governed by the laws of a Canadian Jurisdiction or the laws of Canada.
6. Each Fund is, or will be, governed by the provisions of NI 81-102, subject to any exemption therefrom that has been, or may be, granted by the securities regulatory authorities.
7. No existing Fund is in default of securities legislation in any of the Canadian Jurisdictions.
Definition of Illiquid Assets in NI 81-102 and 144A Securities
8. Pursuant to section 1.1 of NI 81-102, an "illiquid asset" is defined as:
(a) a portfolio asset that cannot be readily disposed of through market facilities on which public quotations in common use are widely available at an amount that at least approximates the amount at which the portfolio asset is valued in calculating the net asset value per security of the investment fund; or
(b) a restricted security held by an investment fund.
9. Rule 144A provides an exemption from the registration requirements of the US Securities Act for resales of unregistered securities by and to Qualified Institutional Buyers. Rule 144A also requires that there must be adequate current public information about the issuing company before the sale can be made.
10. The definition of a Qualified Institutional Buyer under §230.144A of the US Securities Act includes several types of entities, but in general, such entities must, in the aggregate, own and invest on a discretionary basis at least USD$100 million in securities of issuers that are not affiliated with such entity.
11. While issuers themselves cannot rely on Rule 144A, as Rule 144A provides an exemption for resales of unregistered securities, the existence of Rule 144A allows financial intermediaries to purchase unregistered securities from issuers and resell them to Qualified Institutional Buyers in transactions that comply with Rule 144A without registering such securities.
12. Pursuant to the terms of the US Securities Act, public resales of 144A Securities to non-Qualified Institutional Buyers are subject to certain holding periods which range from a minimum of six months to a minimum of one year depending on the issuer of the securities.
13. Though public resales of 144A Securities are subject to certain holding periods, 144A Securities may be traded among Qualified Institutional Buyers in accordance with Rule 144A without regard to any holding periods. 144A Securities may also be sold to and purchased by non-Qualified Institutional Buyers after registration of the securities, or pursuant to another exemption from registration under the US Securities Act, if any exemption is available at that time.
14. Because public resales of 144A Securities are subject to certain holding periods notwithstanding that Qualified Institutional Buyers may purchase 144A Securities in accordance with Rule 144A which does not require a holding period, they may be considered to be restricted securities for the purposes of the section 1.1 definition of an "illiquid asset" under NI 81-102, and each Fund's holdings of 144A Securities would be subject to the limits on holdings of illiquid assets in subsections 2.4(1), 2.4(2) and 2.4(3) in NI 81-102 (the Illiquid Asset Restrictions).
Reasons for the Exemption Sought
15. The Filer is of the view that certain 144A Securities provide an attractive investment opportunity for the Funds. Due to the definition of an "illiquid asset" under section 1.1 of NI 81-102, the Funds may be unable to pursue these investment opportunities without risking a breach of the Illiquid Asset Restrictions.
16. The ability of Qualified Institutional Buyers to freely trade 144A Securities pursuant to Rule 144A has substantially reduced the discounts and illiquidity that were present in unregistered offerings historically. The market for 144A Securities consists of a very deep pool of Qualified Institutional Buyers.
17. The most liquid 144A Securities have traded with comparable volumes to the most liquid corporate debt Registered Securities over the past few years. The segment of the U.S. investment grade corporate bond market that is made up of 144A Securities has grown substantially over the past 15 years. The segment of the U.S. high-yield corporate bond market that is made up of 144A Securities has also grown significantly over the past decade.
18. Daily market quotations are obtained in the same way through fixed income market platforms for 144A Securities as they are for Registered Securities. Real-time price quotes and market trade data are available for 144A Securities. Many fixed income trades including 144A Securities, are reported within minutes into the Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine, a program initially developed by the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. (now the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.) that provides for the reporting of over-the-counter transactions pertaining to eligible fixed income securities, including 144A Securities, thus meeting market integrity requirements.
19. A Fund that qualifies as a Qualified Institutional Buyer at the time it purchases 144A Securities may trade those 144A Securities to another Qualified Institutional Buyer without further restriction. Typically, a Fund would sell 144A Securities to other brokers or dealers that are Qualified Institutional Buyers themselves, who would then on-sell the securities to other Qualified Institutional Buyers.
20. In addition to 144A Securities being freely tradable among Qualified Institutional Buyers immediately, 144A Securities may be sold to and purchased by retail investors under other available exemptions, such as Rule 144. Rule 144 allows a seller to sell 144A Securities to a purchaser who does not qualify as a Qualified Institutional Buyer after a prescribed period of time (ranging from six months to one year after issuance), if certain other reporting requirements of the issuer are satisfied.
21. A Fund is not required to maintain its Qualified Institutional Buyer status in order to be able to resell its holdings of 144A Securities to another Qualified Institutional Buyer at any time.
22. In the course of determining the potential liquidity of a security, the Filer uses a consistent list of factors. These factors include market volatility, trending credit quality, current valuation, maturity, size of the tranche or offering, the applicable underwriters, the status of well-covered credit or first-time issuer, index eligibility, and in the case of 144A Securities, whether the security falls under "144A for life" status.
23. The Filer is of the view that it has the tools, resources and expertise necessary to assess issuances of 144A Securities and to evaluate the creditworthiness of corporations on a per issuance basis. The Filer has the ability to conduct sufficient analysis and should have the opportunity to invest in 144A Securities as if they were deemed liquid investments and are not "restricted securities" under part (b) of the section 1.1 definition of an "illiquid asset" under NI 81-102.
24. The purpose of the Illiquid Asset Restrictions is to govern a core mutual fund principle: investors should be able to redeem mutual fund securities on demand. Considering that 144A Securities trade in an active institutional market, the Filer is of the view that 144A Securities can be liquid relative to a Fund's need to satisfy redemptions. The result of the current definition of an "illiquid asset" in NI 81-102 is that all 144A Securities may be rendered illiquid under the definition, whereas 144A Securities may be more liquid than securities that meet the liquidity criteria set out in NI 81-102.
25. Exempting 144A Securities from the section 1.1, part (b) definition of an "illiquid asset" in NI 81-102 will not result in a Fund being unable to satisfy redemption requests. Investing in 144A Securities may actually be more beneficial to the Funds than various other securities in which the Funds may invest, and the liquidity determination regarding any such 144A Securities should be made on the actual trading liquidity of the security and not simply based on the manner in which the security was offered into the market.
26. The Filer maintains investor protection policies and procedures that address liquidity risk, and uses a combination of risk management tools, including (i) IRC approved governance policies that have been adopted to protect investors in the Funds, (ii) internal portfolio manager notification requirements of significant cash flows into the Funds, (iii) ongoing liquidity monitoring of each Fund's portfolio, (iv) real time cash projection reporting for the Funds, and (v) the consideration of factors in order to assess the potential liquidity of a security, including, but not limited to, trending credit quality, current valuation, maturity and index eligibility.
27. If a Fund no longer meets the requirements for qualifying as a Qualified Institutional Buyer, then the Filer's compliance department will immediately restrict any further purchases of 144A Securities until such time as the Fund regains its status as a Qualified Institutional Buyer.
28. It would not be prejudicial to the public interest to grant the Exemption Sought to the Funds. The Filer is of the view that by prohibiting the Funds from accessing and investing in 144A Securities, the Funds and their investors are losing out on potential investment opportunities in the fixed income space. Given the expectation for long-term depressed interest rates compared to historical levels, the Filer is of the view that every basis point counts towards the total return opportunity of fixed income investors and investors would benefit from an expanded investment universe.
The principal regulator is satisfied that the decision meets the test set out in the Legislation for the principal regulator to make the decision.
The decision of the principal regulator under the Legislation is that the Exemption Sought is granted, provided that:
(a) a Fund that purchases 144A Securities is a Qualified Institutional Buyer at the time of purchase;
(b) the 144A Securities purchased pursuant to the Exemption Sought are not illiquid assets under part (a) of the section 1.1 definition of an "illiquid asset" in NI 81-102;
(c) the 144A Securities purchased pursuant to the Exemption Sought are traded on a mature and liquid market; and
(d) the prospectus of each Fund relying on the Exemption Sought discloses, or will disclose in the next renewal of its prospectus following the date of this decision, the fact that the Fund has obtained the Exemption Sought.