February 17, 2006
Mr. Gregory L. Hammond
Dear Mr./Ms. Hammond:
In your letter dated February 8, 2006, on behalf of TriNet Group, Inc. ("TriNet"), you request assurances that the Division of Market Regulation ("Division") will not recommend enforcement action to the Commission under Section 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act") if TriNet engages in the proposed activities described in your letter without registering as a broker-dealer in accordance with Section 15(b) of the Exchange Act. Based on your letter, we understand the facts to be as follows:
TriNet presently provides professional employer organization services (which are sometimes known as employee leasing services) for businesses other than broker-dealers, and now proposes to offer these services to registered broker-dealers and their employees. In providing these services, TriNet will place on its payroll the existing employees of its broker-dealer clients. While the employees placed on TriNet's payroll are employees of TriNet for purposes of applicable employment laws, they are employees of its broker-dealer clients for purposes of the securities laws and these broker-dealer clients will maintain direction and control over them. The services TriNet will offer its broker-dealer clients consist of human resources consulting and employee benefits services. TriNet is not an associated person of a broker-dealer.
In general, TriNet will provide its broker-dealer clients and their joint employees with advice regarding compliance with applicable employment laws, employee benefits including traditional insurance products such as medical and life insurance plans, accidental death and disability insurance, and 401(k) retirement plans, risk management services including workers' compensation insurance, services relating to unemployment compensation benefits, and payroll processing. This activity will be performed under the control and supervision of the broker-dealer client receiving these services. All books and records relating thereto will be deemed property of the broker-dealer client and will be made available for inspection by the Commission and any self-regulatory organization of which the broker-dealer is a member.
TriNet's situation differs from the one where a registered representative proposes to establish a corporation or other entity that, among other things, is to receive the representative's commission from the registered broker-dealer. Such an entity would be considered an "Employee Owned Corporation." The staff of the Division of Market Regulation has repeatedly declined to give no-action assurances under Section 15(a) in situations involving Employee Owned Corporations.1
With any one of its broker-dealer clients, TriNet will receive payment from the broker-dealer for salaries, wages and commissions, which TriNet will then pay to personnel of the broker-dealers. TriNet will impose an administrative fee for its services, which will include a profit margin. This fee will be a flat, pre-determined fee based on the number of employees serviced by TriNet. The fee will not be based on a percentage of payroll, nor on brokerage commissions earned by either the employees of the broker-dealer or the broker-dealer itself. Moreover, TriNet will not have discretion to determine the amount or frequency of the payments that will be distributed to personnel of the broker-dealer.
In addition, TriNet will provide all health, life, disability, and other insurance coverage to the broker-dealer's employees. The insurance products that would be provided by TriNet are traditional insurance products and would not be "securities" as defined under the federal securities laws.
The broker-dealer will maintain all supervisory control over its employees. In this regard, the broker-dealer will be wholly responsible for the proper registration, training and supervision of its employees. The broker-dealer will retain the traditional rights of an employer, including the right to hire, set compensation for, terminate, discipline, and reassign personnel of the broker-dealer. TriNet will have no authority to hire or fire broker-dealer personnel. Furthermore, TriNet will not engage in any securities-related activities (other than with respect to its own TriNet securities).
All promotional activities, including any promotional material that TriNet distributes, will relate solely to professional employer services and will not in any way relate to brokerage activities. In addition, TriNet will not identify or promote any broker-dealer in its promotional activities or materials.
Based on the facts and representations set forth in your letter, and without necessarily concurring in your analysis, the staff of the Division of Market Regulation will not recommend enforcement action to the Commission under Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act if TriNet engages in the activities described above without registering as a broker-dealer under Section 15(b) of the Exchange Act. In particular, we note that TriNet will only engage in these activities on behalf of, and under the control of, registered broker-dealers. The response of the Division of Market Regulation represents a staff position regarding enforcement action only, and does not purport to express any legal conclusions with respect to the applicability of the statutory or regulatory provisions of the federal securities laws. Moreover, this response is based upon the representations you have made, and any different facts or conditions might require a different response.
Brian A. Bussey
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