What Is the Investment Company Act of 1940?

What Is the Investment Company Act of 1940?

The Investment Company Act of 1940, a congressional act, governs the establishment and operations of investment companies. Enforced and regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the legislation offers exemptions to companies wishing to avoid specific obligations. Signed into law by FDR in response to the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, the Act aimed to protect investors. Over the years, it has undergone numerous modifications to adapt to the evolving and intricate financial markets.


The Investment Company Act of 1940, a congressional act, governs investment company organization and activities. Its key aim is safeguarding investors by ensuring their awareness of associated risks in securities ownership.

Under this Act, investment companies must furnish information on investment objectives, policies, and financial status during the initial sale of stock and at regular intervals thereafter. Additionally, investors must be apprised of the company's structure and operations.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Act into law concurrently with the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, granting regulatory authority over investment trusts and counselors to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

What Is the Investment Company Act of 1940?

Enforced and overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Investment Company Act of 1940 outlines the responsibilities and regulations governing investment companies and publicly traded investment product offerings, including open-end mutual funds, closed-end mutual funds, and unit investment trusts. This legislation mainly focuses on retail investment products.

Born out of the aftermath of the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Act was crafted to establish a stable financial market regulatory framework. It serves as the primary legislation governing investment companies and their product offerings. In contrast, the Securities Act of 1933, also a response to the crash, concentrated on enhancing investor transparency.

The Act encompasses a wide range of rules and regulations that U.S. investment companies must follow when dealing with investment product securities. These provisions address filings, service charges, financial disclosures, and the fiduciary duties of investment companies.

Moreover, the Act lays down regulations for transactions involving affiliated persons and underwriters, accounting practices, record-keeping requirements, auditing procedures, distribution, redemption, and repurchase of securities, changes to investment policies, and actions to address fraud or breaches of fiduciary duty.

Its profound impact on safeguarding individuals' retirement savings cannot be understated, particularly as mutual funds play a pivotal role in retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, and annuities. The Act also presents specific guidelines for various types of classified investment companies, encompassing the rules governing the operation of unit investment trusts, open-end mutual funds, closed-end mutual funds, and more.

Investment Company Classification and Registration

The Investment Company Act of 1940 provides a clear definition of what constitutes an "investment company." However, certain companies can seek exemptions from the Act's product obligations and requirements. Hedge funds, for instance, might fall within the Act's definition but can potentially avoid its provisions by obtaining exemptions under sections 3(c)(1) or 3(c)(7).

To offer their securities in the public market, investment companies must comply with the Act's registration requirement and register with the SEC. The registration process is carefully outlined in the Act.

Companies seeking registration must select the appropriate classification based on the type or range of products they aim to manage and offer to investors. Three main types of investment companies exist in the U.S. under federal securities laws: mutual funds/open-end management investment companies, unit investment trusts (UITs), and closed-end funds/closed-end management investment companies. The specific requirements for investment companies are determined by their classification and the products they offer to the public.

The Dodd-Frank Act: Reshaping Financial Regulation

Following the Great Recession, President Obama enacted the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010. This extensive legislation led to the establishment of new government agencies responsible for overseeing various aspects of the act and the overall U.S. financial system. The act had far-reaching effects, encompassing consumer protection, trading restrictions, credit ratings, financial products, corporate governance, and transparency.

Although the Investment Company Act of 1940 was less affected, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 experienced more significant changes due to Dodd-Frank. Hedge funds, in particular, were impacted by the legislation.

Prior to Dodd-Frank, hedge funds were not obligated to register, granting them considerable freedom in their trading activities. The act, however, introduced new regulations mandating hedge funds and private equity funds to register with the SEC and adhere to specific disclosure requirements based on their size.


Enacted by FDR after the Great Depression, the Investment Company Act of 1940 aimed to empower the SEC to supervise investment companies to act lawfully and in the best interest of investors. The primary objective was safeguarding investors at any expense. Over the years, the Act has evolved alongside financial markets, but its core mission of investor protection remains steadfast.

Investment Company Act of 1940
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