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Category Archives: Compliance and Supervision

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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

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 In The Clouds

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement

FINRA continues to boost its surveillance capabilities by adopting new technologies like the cloud.  Reuters recently interviewed the CIO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Steven Randich, who commented on the agency’s ongoing 30-month roll-out of cloud computing.  According to Randich, by moving to the cloud, FINRA will get “dramatic processing and storage scale at… Continue Reading

EFFECTIVE COMPLIANCE PROGRAM COULD HAVE ENFORCEMENT PAYOFF

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

An effective corporate compliance program may temper a Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement action, or – if there is an enforcement action – limit the penalties imposed.  See http://www.sec.gov/News/Speech/Detail/Speech/1370539872783#.UlbOPVOHiJR. Agency enforcers make judgments every day regarding the entities and individuals under investigation, and companies that demonstrate an effective compliance program and a genuine commitment to… 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

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

SEC Discourages Incentivizing Whistleblowers to Keep Complaints In-House

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, Dodd-Frank, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

What’s good for the goose is apparently not so good for the gander, as the SEC warns in-house attorneys against whistleblower contracts.  The SEC has been financially incentivizing whistleblowers to bring securities fraud complaints to the agency’s attention for years, with increasing success.  The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 empowers… Continue Reading

Suspicious Activity Reports, FCMs and IBs, Is That A Marriage Made In Heaven

Posted in CFTC Compliance, Compliance and Supervision, Money Laundering, Uncategorized

Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) have been a useful tool for financial institutions to report financial fraud while, at the same time, prohibiting the reporting institution from disclosing the existence of a SARs in response to a third-party request.  In 2010, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), amended this regulation to extend the prohibition against disclosure… 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

It Is The End Of The Year — Do You Know Your Customer

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, FINRA Compliance

Now that the year is drawing to an end and we reflect back on our successes and, dare I say, failures over the last year, financial advisors and brokers should take the time now to review their respective client portfolios. This review should be your standard practice as you plan for next year. The premise… Continue Reading

Fixed-Income Commissions allowed for Brokerage and Research Services

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

The Securities and Exchange Commission Division of Trading and Markets granted relief for institutional asset managers participating in a brokerage firm’s client commission arrangements.  See Carolina Capital Mkts. Inc., SEC No Action Letter, avail. 7/30/13; http://www.sec.gov/divisions/marketreg/mr-noaction/2013/carolinacapital-073113-15a.pdf. Specifically, the Staff said it would not object if instructional asset managers receive eligible third-party brokerage and research services… Continue Reading

What Do Ethics Have To Do With It?

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

Having a strong compliance program is not the end of a firm’s obligation to itself and its customers. All firms should also make sure that it has a strong ethics program. An ethics program should include, among other things, the following: A written code of conduct; Having an ethical tone at the top of the… Continue Reading

Why The Line Between Supervision And Compliance Should Not Be Blurred

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement

In enforcement proceedings, it is no secret that FINRA focuses on supervision. The question becomes how to avoid being considered a supervisor when you are not. This question is even more difficult in small firms who do not have the luxury of large and distinct compliance departments. Generally, a person is considered a supervisor if… Continue Reading

How To Manage Hold Recommendations Under Rule 2111

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

One of the greater challenges arising from the implementation of Rule 2111 in July 2012 was how firms would manage hold recommendations because they now have to be suitable. FINRA noted in a recent Regulatory Notice focused on suitability examinations what some firms are doing right when it comes to handling hold recommendations. FINRA recognized… Continue Reading

Who Wants To Know The Red Flags In A FINRA Suitability Examination

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

In Regulatory Notice 13-31, FINRA identified those areas of inquiry it will likely make when conducting a suitability examination.  Once those questions are answered, and FINRA examines the firm’s controls, FINRA will determine whether to expand its examination. An examination is typically expanded when FINRA uncovers a material deviation between the procedures and actual practices. … Continue Reading

So You Don’t Think You Need A Business Continuity Plan; Here Are 15 Considerations Why You Should Have One

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, Investment Adviser Regulation, Registered Representatives, SEC Compliance

Now that summer is in its waning days, the hurricaine season is about to take off.  Hurricaine Sandy had a devastating impact on the financial markets, closing the equity markets for two days and some firms for at least a week.  The SEC, CFTC and FINRA recently provided financial firms a framework to improve their… Continue Reading

A Secret Concern With Small Firm Supervision And Compliance

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

A recently released compliance testing survey of the Investment Adviser Association and ACA Compliance showed that 90% of all firms claimed to have a full-time person designated to the compliance function, but nearly two thirds of all chief compliance officers have multiple roles within the firm.  Unless I missed that day of new math, these… Continue Reading

So Do You Really Want To Arbitrate Customer Claims

Posted in Arbitration, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, Public Customer Arbitrations, Securities Litigation

In the 17 plus years of defending broker-dealers in FINRA arbitrations, I and my clients have relied upon the fact that at least one arbitrator would have industry experience.  In my experience, having that presence did not create an unfair advantage for the firm.  Instead, it provided the panel with a knowledgeable resource that would… Continue Reading

What Does FINRA Rule 3270 Mean To You

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, Money Laundering, Ponzi Schemes, Registered Representatives, Social Media

The outside business activities of registered persons have the potential for causing your firm significant liability, especially where those activities are unknown to the firm, involve firm customers and constitute a fraud.  FINRA 3270 only requires the registered person to provide notice to the firm before engaging in the activity, but should the firm do more…. Continue Reading

Do You Want To Know What Keeps The Regulator Up At Night

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

At a regulator’s round table during a recent National Society of Compliance Professionals meeting, the regulators framed out those issues that are keeping them up at night.  The issues include: The increasing complexity of investment products. Social media beyond things like Twitter or LinkedIn. Cyber security. Cyber fraud; i.e. hacking into customer accounts. AML issues… Continue Reading

What Investment Advisers Need To Know About The SEC

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, Investment Adviser Regulation, SEC Compliance

The SEC recently announced that its top priority is to increase the number of investment adviser examinations it conducts on an annual basis.  Considering that the SEC only examined 8% of all investment advisers in 2012 (where 40% have never been examined), the SEC could only increase the number of such examinations. The talk, for… Continue Reading