If a lawyer's time and advice are his or her stock in trade, then information is the lawyer's raw materials. The Internet is one of the most prolific sources of information ever to emerge. Herewith is an attempt to point to some of the more valuable resources for those interested in the law of mutual funds. All of the referenced Internet sites and e-mail lists are free, although some of them require free registration and some sites make only some of their pages available for free.
The large majority of readers of this article already have a personal computer, an Internet connection through a local area network or a dial-up connection, a World Wide Web browser (Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator), and Internet e-mail. To this list of essential tools should be added Adobe Acrobat Reader, the free software for viewing and printing PDF files. Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available for all major operating systems, can be downloaded from Adobe Systems, http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep.html.
You should bookmark the Web pages you find useful, and if you have more than a few bookmarks you should use your browser to organize the bookmarks into folders. Bookmarks are called favorites in Internet Explorer, but their function is the same. Since I check various sites on the Web every day, I have a Morning and an Afternoon folder to make my updates more systematic, as well as Associations, Government, Law, and News folders, among others, for larger lists of resources.
Government and Regulatory Sites
The most important site for a mutual fund lawyer is that of the Securities and Exchange Commission. While the SEC includes announcements it considers of special importance on its home page, http://www.sec.gov/, these may not be the developments you consider most important. More comprehensive is the SEC News Digest, http://www.sec.gov/news/newsindx.htm, a daily summary of SEC news, once published in hard copy but now available only on the Web.
Announcements in the News Digest often precede the posting of the underlying documents by a few days, especially if the documents are long and important. It is also worth wandering around the SEC site every now and then, as some documents are never announced at all, especially the Speeches by SEC Officials, http://www.sec.gov/news/spchindx.htm, and most of the (sometimes extremely useful) Other Commission Notices and Information, http://www.sec.gov/rules/othrindx.htm. There is also a page devoted specifically to investment advisers’ issues, http://www.sec.gov/rules/othern/advfaq.htm.
Second only to the SEC is a less obvious source: the Government Printing Office. The Federal Register's complete contents are available each business day in text and PDF formats. The PDF format is usually the most readable version of a document, certainly more readable than an actual copy of the Federal Register on newsprint. You have the choice of browsing the current day's table of contents, http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/fr-cont.html, or searching the Federal Register since 1994, http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html. The Code of Federal Regulations can be similarly searched or browsed, http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/index.html, although you must bear in mind that the online version of C.F.R., like the printed version, does not reflect amendments since the last compilation. Recent Public Laws are also available, http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/nara005.html. So is the United States Code, but it is likewise somewhat out of date and in text format only, http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/cong013.html.
The Government Printing Office also publishes the Congressional Record, http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces150.html, which like the Federal Register is available on a same-day basis. For most legislative developments, however, you should go directly to the Senate, http://www.senate.gov/, or the House of Representatives, http://www.house.gov/. These sites include links to the various committee web sites, which vary in format but sometimes have important current information.
Since the SEC generally does not post its governing statutes or its own rules and forms, some third-party sites have put them online. The most comprehensive of these is Bowne's SEC Rules and Regulations, http://pubs.bowne.com/pdf0307/fullmenu.htm, which includes the entire contents of the Bowne Red Box Service in PDF format. For those occasions where you don't want to download an entire book to check a rule, SEC Law.com, http://www.seclaw.com/secrules.htm, and the University of Cincinnati College of Law, http://www.law.uc.edu/CCL/sldtoc.html, have selected statutes, rules, and forms. For all of these free services, of course, updating is potentially an issue.
Mutual funds are not directly regulated by the National Association of Securities Dealers, but NASD Regulation does regulate their advertising and distribution, so there is a good chance that you will find at least a passing familiarity with its web site useful. NASD Regulation's home page, http://www.nasdr.com/, highlights recent changes to the web site with the date the change was posted, so this user-friendly feature makes it easy to keep up with NASD developments. NASD Regulation also has the full text of the NASD Manual online, http://secure.nasdr.com/default.htm, and posts Notices to Members, http://www.nasdr.com/2610.htm.
The North American Securities
Administrators Association is the voice of the state securities regulators, and their site, http://www.nasaa.org/, provides information on important blue sky initiatives. It also includes a link, http://www.nasaa.org/regulator/, to state securities web sites. Alternatively, a useful trick for finding a state government web site is to point your browser to http://www.state.xx.us/, where xx is the state's two-letter abbreviation. For example, the New York State home page is http://www.state.ny.us/. While this sometimes can leave you with some serious searching within the state web site before you find your ultimate goal, legislative information is usually easy to find.
News and Research
There is a plethora of news sources on the Internet, but finding the news you want, especially if it is breaking news with a narrow interest, can be a challenge. A news portal such as Yahoo, http://news.yahoo.com/, or the Excite NewsTracker, http://nt.excite.com/, can be a good start. A large number of financial sites provide news on public companies, and some of these, such as FreeRealTime.com, http://quotes.freerealtime.com/frontpage/, also provide free real-time stock quotes.
There are a variety of web sites that provide specialized news reports on the money management industry. Unfortunately, the best sources are proprietary. Still, you may find it worthwhile to check out such sources as Financial-Planning Interactive, http://www.financial-planning.com/index.html, HedgeWorld, http://www.hedgeworld.com/news/, Moneymanagerservices.com, http://www.moneymanagerservices.com/, Morningstar, http://news.morningstar.com/Cover/Funds.html, and Smart Money, http://www.smartmoney.com/intro/funds/.
The classic source of information on any public company is, of course, the SEC's EDGAR filings. While EDGAR filings are available directly from the SEC, http://www.sec.gov/edgarhp.htm, you are better advised to use one of the free third-party sites, such as EDGAR Online, http://www.freeedgar.com/, or SEC Info, http://www.secinfo.com/. A good search engine, such as Fast Search & Transfer, http://www.ussc.alltheweb.com/, can provide surprisingly comprehensive information. And if you need to find a company's web site or learn who owns a commercial Internet domain, Network Solutions' Dot Com Directory, http://www.dotcomdirectory.com/nsi/basic.hm, will provide that information.
The World Wide Web gets all the attention, but e-mail is actually the most used, and most useful, of the Internet services. While you may be most familiar with personalized e-mails, sent to only one person or a small number of persons, e-mail lists have been in use for years. These are sometimes called listservs, after the software used on some lists. The concept is quite simple: a central server maintains a list of subscribers and forwards messages to everyone on the list. The list may be used either for one-way dissemination of information, in which case only the listowner can post to the list, or for mutual discussion, in which case any subscriber can post.
I would be remiss, at least in my own mind, if I did not start with the FundLaw list, of which I am the listowner. The FundLaw list is a sort of combination of the two kinds of lists, as it provides both news and discussion of legal issues relating to registered investment companies and investment advisers, hedge funds and other private investment vehicles, and money management generally. Subscriptions are available either for individual messages, for those who may want to participate in the discussions, or in so-called "digest" format, for those who want the day's information compiled into a single message. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are also two general-interest securities law discussion lists, securitieslaw-l and the PLI Securities Law List. These two lists, which are virtually indistinguishable, are discussion-only lists and tend to focus more on operating companies. To join securitieslaw-l, send an e-mail consisting only of the message "subscribe securitieslaw-l FirstName LastName" (without the quotes and substituting your own name) to email@example.com. To join the PLI Securities Law List, send an e-mail consisting only of the message "subscribe PLI-SecuritiesLaw FirstName LastName" (again without the quotes and with appropriate substitutions) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute provides same-day announcements of Supreme Court decisions on its liibulletin list. To subscribe, use the online subscription form, http://www3.law.cornell.edu/liibulletin/