To check up on investment advisers you can (1) get the Form ADV they file with the SEC (or the equivalent State filing), (2) ask the SEC for a background check (3) ask FINRA for a background check, (4) search for articles in a news database. For more information, see the information in "Professional Licensing."
(1) Form ADVs: Investment Advisers managing over $25 million are required to file a Form ADV with the SEC. Part I of the Form ADV provides information on the adviser's disciplinary history; Part II provides information on the adviser's background and experience, fees and services.
Starting in 2001, filings must be made electronically, and each Investment Adviser's current ADV is made available on the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure Web site. You can request copies of older ADVs from the SEC Office of Investor Education and Advocacy by email (PublicInfo@sec.gov) or fax (202-628-9001). This will take between a few days and a few weeks. If you are in a rush, you may be able to get the ADV from ThomsonReuters Custom Research Services (formerly the Disclosure company - call 301-545-4930 to reach D.C. directly or 800-638-8241 for the toll-free main number).
Forms and instructions for filing Form ADV are posted on the SEC Web site. More information is available on the IARD Website.
State Filings: Investment Advisers managing less than $100 million are generally regulated by the state where they do business (it was $25 million or less before 2012). The Investment Adviser Public Disclosure Web site may link you to the filing on the relevant state agency's web site. Otherwise, contact the state agency to get copies of the adviser's filings. Advisers with principal offices in a state that that does not regulate Advisers must file Form ADV with the SEC.
2. SEC Background Checks: Investment Advisers are not required to report their complete disciplinary records on Form ADV. To find out about all SEC Civil Injunction/Administrative Proceedings back to 1979, send a request to the SEC Office of Investor Education and Advocacy by email (PublicInfo@sec.gov) or fax (202-628-9001). Note: The SEC sometimes takes a few weeks to respond to requests.
3. FINRA Background Checks: If the Investment Adviser in question was a Broker/Dealer registered with FINRA (formerly NASD), the Adviser may have been subjected to NASD disciplinary action. To find out, call FINRA's BrokerCheck Hotline at 800-289-9999 and/or search the BrokerCheck database (Caveat: online data May go back only to 2007).
4. Search for articles: I would recommend a broad search, since articles could show up anywhere from a little local paper to a big business journal. Be sure to check for both spellings of adviser ("adviser" and "advisor"). For database suggestions, see the entry called "News - Newspapers & Magazines - Articles."
Treatises: I know of two books on investment advisers - Regulation of Investment Advisers (West) and The ABCs OF Investment Adviser Regulation (PLI Securities Law Handbook series).