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Category Archives: Broker-Dealer Regulation

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What Are You Doing About Cyber-Security

Posted in Books and Records, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Cyber-Security, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

It was apparently not enough that the SEC and FINRA made cyber-security an exam priority for 2014, but the Department of the Treasury has now focused on this pervasive issue.  In recent comments, Treasury Secretary Lew has urged financial firms to step it up when protecting against cyber-attacks.  Stories of cyber-attacks are becoming so common… Continue Reading

NEW STANDARD FOR B-D AUDITS

Posted in Accounting Standards, Broker-Dealer Regulation, PCAOB Enforcement

The PCAOB adopted two attestation standards relating to auditors’ examinations and reviews of broker-dealer compliance and examination reports and adopted an auditing standard for the audits of supplemental information that broker-dealers file with the SEC. The preparation by broker-dealers of compliance or exception reports are new requirements that were added by the SEC when it… Continue Reading

GOOD COMPLIANCE PROGRAMS EXALTED

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

Companies subject to enforcement actions will get more credit from regulators if the alleged misconduct is an exception in a compliance-driven corporate culture rather than a remedial step after discovery. In cases where the SEC finds fraud, there often are early warning signs, and inadequate corporate compliance may not have seen them.  The SEC believes… Continue Reading

Should You Even Care About A Uniform Fiduciary Duty

Posted in Arbitration, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Dodd-Frank, FINRA Compliance, SEC Compliance, Uncategorized

In an Investment News article written by Mark Schoeff, he reported that the push for a uniform fiduciary standard for broker-dealers and investment advisors has become a bit stagnant. In fact, it was reported that the prospects for such a uniform rules have waned over the years notwithstanding the general consensus that there should be such a… Continue Reading

FINRA’S NEW TEAM TO PROSECUTE RECIDIVIST BROKERS

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement

FINRA announced several new regulatory and examination priorities, including the creation of a dedicated enforcement team to prosecute “recidivist brokers.” Recidivist brokers have been the subject of “a pattern of complaints or disclosures” involving sales practice abuses.  FINRA will examine firms that hire these brokers and expect to review the firm’s due diligence conducted in… Continue Reading

M&A BROKER RELIEF FROM REGISTRATION

Posted in Broker-Dealer Registration, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Mergers and Acquisitions, No-Action Relief

The SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets stated that it would not recommend enforcement action if a “mergers and acquisitions broker” were to engage in the sale or purchase of a privately held company without registering as a broker-dealer under Securities Exchange Act of 1934 Section 15(b). Lee M&A Brokers, SEC, No-Action Letter, avail, 1/31/14,… Continue Reading

I Tweet, You Tweet, We All Tweet

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement, Social Media

The SEC recently issued two interpretations that address your use of interactive social media, like Twitter, in accordance with the securities laws.   These interpretations permit your firm to now use a hyperlink to satisfy the legend requirements and, at the same time, limit your responsibility where your communications are retransmitted, like a retweet.  The major… Continue Reading

Do You Really Want To Be A Dual Registrant

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Conflicts of Interest, FINRA Compliance, Registered Representatives, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

One of the priorities of the SEC National Examination Program is dual registrants; entities that provide both brokerage and investment advisory services.  The focus of the program on dual registrants begs the question why a firm would want to be one.  The answer to that question should be an obvious.  Being a dual registrant allows… Continue Reading

Is “Big Brother” Such A Bad Thing

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Corporate Governance, FINRA Compliance, FINRA CRD, FINRA Enforcement, Ponzi Schemes, Registered Representatives

FINRA recently announced a change to the supervision rule to require hiring firms to conduct background checks on new employees.  This rule change raises the question; what have member firms been doing all along.  In this day and age of instant information, having a new registered representative complete his/her U-4 should have only been a… Continue Reading

Will There Be A Fiduciary Duty?

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Dodd-Frank

The Dodd-Frank Act directed the SEC to study whether broker-dealers should be held to a fiduciary duty standard rather than the lower “suitability” standard.  Advocates for the fiduciary standard claim that customers are often under the misconception that they are dealing with a professional obligated to put their interests first.  Many broker-dealers have argued that… Continue Reading

You Knew It Was Coming… SEC Cybersecurity Exams

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Cyber-Security, SEC Compliance

We have repeatedly warned broker-dealers and registered investment advisers that they needed to be prepared as it related to cybersecurity.  Now, the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations has announced that it will conduct cybersecurity examinations of these entities.  See http://www.sec.gov/ocie/announcement/Cybersecurity+Risk+Alert++%2526+Appendix+-+4.15.14.pdf.  These examinations will be conducted as part of a ”sweep exam,” and will assess… Continue Reading

Why Should You Care About Cyber-Security

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

The short answer to this question is that the SEC and FINRA care.  Both regulators have made this issue an exam priority for the year, and it was recently a focus of an SEC roundtable.  We hear of data breaches on nearly a daily basis at retail stores, to name a common target.  But what… Continue Reading

Who Wants To Know Something About FINRA’s New Written Procedures Rule?

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, Registered Representatives

New FINRA Rule 3110 (effective December 1, 2014) sets out various written procedures and requirements for member firms.  You should pay particular attention to these rules because they suggest those areas of focus in any upcoming examination.  Among other things, new FINRA Rule 3110.06 provides for the review of correspondence and internal communications.  Importantly, this… Continue Reading

What Do You Need To Know About FINRA’s New Supervision Rules

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, FINRA Compliance, Registered Representatives

Effective December 1, 2014, there will be new rules for broker-dealer supervision.  With these changes, FINRA is placing more burdens on a firm’s supervisory system.    With respect to “supervisory systems”, Rule 3110 covers the following:  Establishing and maintaining written procedures and designating principals responsible for supervision. Designating offices of supervisory jurisdiction. Designating OSJ/non-OSJ branch principals…. Continue Reading

E-Mail Guidance from FINRA …. What took you so long?

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, FINRA Compliance

FINRA amended its supervisory rules to include new Rules 3110 and 3120.   See http://www.finra.org/Industry/Regulation/Notices/2014/P465941.  Those Rules replace FINRA Rules 3010 and 3012 and add some additional requirements.  FINRA provided some additional guidance concerning  electronic communications, including customer correspondence and internal communications.  FINRA will now permit member firms to use a “lexicon-based” screening tool or system for email reviews.  Nonetheless, supervisors are still… Continue Reading

What To Make Out Of FINRA’s Proposed Rule On Bonus Disclosures

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Conflicts of Interest, FINRA Compliance, SEC Compliance

Bonuses and other forms of compensation are frequently used by one firm to attract talent away from another firm.  FINRA has now proposed a rule that would require brokers who receive in excess of $100,000 to disclose that payment to their customers.  Does this make any sense?  FINRA’s rationale for the rule is that it… Continue Reading

Should You Breath Easy Because FINRA Enforcement Actions And Fines Decreased In 2013

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Conflicts of Interest, FINRA Compliance

The Sutherland Asbill firm recently released its report regarding FINRA enforcement actions. In all, the report reflects that enforcement actions and fines decreased over the past year.  So what does this all mean? According to the firm, this could be a reflection of the larger financial crisis cases having worked their way through the system…. Continue Reading

When in Rome Do as the Romans or At Least Play by the Rules

Posted in Broker-Dealer Registration, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Foreign Broker-Dealers, International Securities Regulation

Usually, we spend a fair amount of time advising our American broker-dealer clients, who do business overseas, that they have to follow the rules of those countries as well.  However, the “shoe” may sometimes be on the other “foot.”  See http://www.sec.gov/litigation/admin/2014/34-71593.pdf. Recently, a foreign broker-dealer was forced to pay a 9 figure judgment to resolve an action brought… Continue Reading

More Unaswered/Answered Broker-Dealer Registration Questions

Posted in Broker-Dealer Registration, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Mergers and Acquisitions

Recently, the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets Staff issued no action relief allowing those persons and entities specializing in mergers and acquistions (“M&A Broker”) to avoid broker-dealer registration.  See http://www.sec.gov/divisions/marketreg/mr-noaction/2014/ma-brokers-013114.pdf. The staff defined a M&A Broker as “a person engaged in the business of effecting securities transactions solely in connection with the transfer of ownership and… Continue Reading

Is This The Beginning Of The End To Expungment Agreements

Posted in Arbitration, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Expungement, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA CRD, Registered Representatives

A frequent tool for settlement was to make a stipulated award that included expungement of the registered representative’s U-4 a condition of settlement.  FINRA recently announced that it is “developing rule changes that would prohibit the practice of conditioning settlements on an investor’s agreement not to oppose expungement.” It should come as no shock that… Continue Reading

SEC Announces Exam Priorities

Posted in Books and Records, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Hedge and Private Equity Funds, Investment Adviser Regulation, Investment Company Regulation, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

Tis the season for the regulators to announce their examination priorities.  No less than the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations released its 2014 Examination Priorities for its National Examination Program (“NEP”). In particular, the SEC identified several new issues for registered investment advisers, primarily for those RIAs, who are at least three years old and have never… Continue Reading

What To Expect In 2014 From The SEC’s Enforcement Division

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Hedge and Private Equity Funds, Insider Trading, Internal Investigations, Investment Adviser Regulation, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement, SEC Organization, SEC Structure, Whistleblowers

Now that 2014 is here, it is a good idea to understand what the Enforcement Division might focus on this year.  In a recent article that appeared in the BNA, David Marder, a partner with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi identified fifteen things to expect in the coming year.  The fifteen things he noted to… Continue Reading

SEC Exam and Enforcement Converging Into One?

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Insider Trading

There is concern over the increasing collaboration between the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Enforcement Division and Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations. The SEC views this collaboration as efficient while others view it in the extreme.  SEC officials have acknowledged the increasingly close working relationship between OCIE and the Enforcement Division. OCIE assists the SEC’s… Continue Reading

Broker Custody and Financial Responsibility Rules Implemented

Posted in Books and Records, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Ponzi Schemes, SEC Compliance

A divided Securities and Exchange Commission adopted new rules to strengthen oversight of broker-dealers’ custody of customer assets. The regulations amend the SEC’s broker-dealer reporting rule Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 Rule 17a-5, requiring firms to file new quarterly reports — Form Custody — containing information as to if and how they maintain custody… Continue Reading