WASHINGTON — For the first time, hedge funds will be allowed to advertise to the general public under a rule adopted Wednesday by federal regulators.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 4-1 to lift a decades-old ban on hedge funds marketing their investments to a wide audience.

Hedge funds are still allowed to sell securities only to an exclusive group of investors: those with a net worth of at least $1 million excluding their primary residence, or annual income of more than $200,000 in each of the two most recent years. About 7.8 percent of U.S. households would qualify.

The change was mandated by legislation enacted last year. The law also makes it easier for small startup companies to raise capital without having to comply immediately with SEC reporting rules.

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  • 11. Journalists

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 24 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 10. Business Executives

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 21 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 9. State Governors

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 20 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 8. Lawyers

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 19 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 7. Insurance Salespeople

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 15 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 6. Senators

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 14 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 5. HMO Managers

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 12 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 4. Stockbrokers

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 11 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 3. Advertising Practitioners

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 11 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 2. Members Of Congress

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 10 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.

  • 1. Car Salespeople

    Percentage of Americans that rate their honesty highly: 10 percent <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/159035/congress-retains-low-honesty-rating.aspx?utm_source=add_this&utm_medium=addthis.com&utm_campaign=sharing#.ULyYD1cRz8Y.twitter">Read more at Gallup</a>.