Venture Capital Firms Face New Reporting Requirement With California Law

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Over three and a half years since the death of George Floyd spurred some members of the venture capital community to enact promises to increase their investments in diverse entrepreneurs, California has enacted legislation in an attempt to track that performance. On October 8, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 54 — “Fair Investment Practices by Investment Advisers.”[1] Commencing on March 1, 2025, covered venture capital firms will be required to annually report to the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) on the diversity of the founding members of their portfolio investments from the prior year and the extent of their investments in startups led by diverse founding members.[2]

What Will Be Reported?

The law requires covered venture capital firms to report to the CRD specific information about the funding determinations, including at an aggregate level, demographic information about the founding teams of all of the companies in which they have invested in the prior calendar year. The law seeks to determine the extent to which venture capital firms are investing in founding teams who are diverse by requesting information regarding the gender identity, race, ethnicity, disability status, LGBTQ+ status, and veteran or disabled veteran status of founding teams. While the law requires that venture capital firms request demographic information, founders are not required to provide it and may respond by stating that they decline to provide such information.

Specifically, the law seeks reporting on the number of investments made by a covered venture capital firm to startups founded by diverse founders in the prior calendar year as a percentage of the total investments made by the covered venture capital fund. Further, the law seeks reporting on the total amount of invested capital in startups founded by diverse founders in the prior calendar year as a percentage of the total amount of invested capital made by the covered venture firm. The CRD will make the reports available and searchable on its website, and the CRD may publish the aggregate information on its website.

VCs Outside of California Are Not Safe

Non-California based venture capital firms will need to monitor the further development and implementation of the law as its reach extends well beyond the California state line. The new law covers any venture capital firm that (i) is headquartered in California; (ii) has a significant presence or operational office in California; (iii) makes venture capital investments in businesses that are located, or have significant operations in, California; or (iv) solicits or receives investment capital from a California resident.[3] The scope of the law will end up capturing a substantial number of the country’s venture capital firms.

Enforcement and Implementation Concerns

The law as drafted provides the CRD with enforcement options should a covered venture capital firm fail to timely file its annual report. The enforcement tools available include bringing a civil action or levying a penalty on a delinquent covered venture capital firm.[4] Although he signed the bill into law, Governor Newsom raised his administration’s concerns about the ability of the CRD to successfully implement and enforce the law as written in his signing statement.[5] In particular, the Governor expressed concern about the overall cost of implementing the law, as well as the number and duration of the investigations the CRD would be required to undertake. As a result, his administration will propose cleanup language to ensure the successful implementation of the law in the 2024-25 budget.[6] While the budget was shared on Jan. 10, the cleanup language has still yet to be released.

In summary, venture capital firms who have any contact with California should stay tuned as a new reporting requirement is on its way in early 2025.


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