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Category Archives: Compliance and Supervision

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So You Think That You Really Know Your Customer

Posted in Arbitration, Compliance and Supervision, Registered Representatives

If the recent National Senior Investor Initiative of the SEC and FINRA taught us anything, it was the tremendous importance to know your customers. This takes on more significance when you are working with seniors. You may ask why does “knowing your customer” take on any more significance for these clients. For one, an investor’s… Continue Reading

So What Does The SEC Think About Cybersecurity

Posted in Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Cyber-Security, FINRA Compliance, Investment Adviser Regulation, Investment Company Regulation, SEC Compliance

At the end of last month, the SEC provided a guidance update on cybersecurity for registered investment companies and registered investment advisors. This guidance is equally instructive for broker-dealers and registered representatives. Cyber threats are numerous and ever changing with technology. The SEC provided the guidance to highlight the importance of having a robust cybersecurity… Continue Reading

What The Heck Is A Senior Designation

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

That is one of the questions FINRA sought to answer in its recent National Seminar Investor Initiative. FINRA confirmed that many representatives use such designations, but some of them are bogus or no better than a certificate you find as a prize in a cereal box. The problem is that some representatives use these bogus… Continue Reading

Why Reverse Churning Does Not Create Cream From Butter.

Posted in Arbitration, Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, Public Customer Arbitrations, Registered Representatives

For years, firms have been using wrap products to charge an annual fee based upon the value of assets under management regardless of the number of trades, as opposed to fees per trade. In other words, wrap accounts were an effective tool to avoid churning claims because the customer theoretically could trade daily and only… Continue Reading

The SEC Cracks Down on Anti-Whistleblower Agreements

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement, Whistleblowers

Around this time last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of the Whistleblower warned lawyers that they may be disciplined for drafting contracts to incentivize whistleblowers to not bring alleged company wrongdoing to the SEC’s attention.  It appears the SEC is beginning to make good on its threat.  Last week, the SEC resolved its… Continue Reading

Is This A Preview of FINRA’s Approach to Rule 3110(e)

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, FINRA Compliance, FINRA CRD, FINRA Enforcement, Raiding/Moving Firms, Registered Representatives

In a recent Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (“AWC”) a broker dealer was censured and fined for, among other things, the failure to conduct an adequate pre-hire investigation of a registered representative. The importance of this AWC is that it may signal FINRA’s mindset for what firms must do under Rule 3110(e). Under Rule 3110(e), FINRA… Continue Reading

How to avoid being sued 2.0

Posted in Arbitration, Compliance and Supervision, FINRA Compliance, FINRA CRD, Public Customer Arbitrations, Registered Representatives, Securities Litigation

Over the years that I have defended financial advisors and their firms, I have frequently spoken and written about ways to avoid the risk of being sued. I prepared a guidebook a couple of years ago that detailed some common sense approaches to risk avoidance. I have updated that guidebook to take into account new… Continue Reading

Cybersecurity: FINRA’s Take

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

We recently highlighted the Security and Exchange Commission’s 2014 OCIE Cybersecurity Initiative.  Not to be outdone, FINRA also released its Report on Cybersecurity Practices, which provided a much more in-depth report on cybersecurity.  Therein, FINRA offered its own insights into what it expects from firms’ cybersecurity risk management practices: FINRA recommends that firms have a… Continue Reading

Do Not Fall Behind On Cybersecurity

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

Cybersecurity is more than just a trending topic.  As hacks and leaks continue to be publicized, the Securities and Exchange Commission is stepping up its game and increasing its focus on cybersecurity compliance. The SEC’s Office of Compliance and Inspections recently released an initial summary of their findings from their 2014 OCIE Cybersecurity Initiative.  The… Continue Reading

FINRA in 2015 – High-Risk and Recidivist Brokers

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, Registered Representatives

FINRA is planning on turning up the heat on perceived “high-risk” brokers this year, and the firms that hire them.  Continuing our discussion regarding FINRA’s 2015 Regulatory and Examinations Priorities Letter, this blog entry will discuss FINRA’s planned activities to prevent and/or stop registered representatives from engaging in actual misconduct. In an effort to protect the… Continue Reading

FINRA in 2015 – Wealth Events

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

FINRA’s 2015 Regulatory and Examinations Priorities Letter provides guidance regarding areas of focus in the “Sales Practice” for this year.  Previously, we discussed the various sales products that FINRA will be monitoring this year; and yesterday, Josh Horn discussed FINRA’s recently adopted Supervision Rules that affect the Sales Practice.  This blog entry will discuss FINRA’s focus… Continue Reading

What Are You Doing About The New Supervision Rules

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

FINRA noted in its exam priorities that it will be focusing on firms’ compliance with the new supervision rules (FINRA Rules 3110, 3120, 3150 and 3170).  These rules became effective on December 1, 2014. Now that two months have passed since their effective date, firms should have taken the changes into account in their written… Continue Reading

Are You Charging Your Customers Too Much

Posted in Books and Records, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Compliance and Supervision, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

If you are not asking that question, FINRA may as its recent $350,000 fine levied against a major brokerage house indicates.  In that instance, FINRA found that the brokerage charged 20,000 customers a total of $2.4 million too much for certain transaction fees. For its part, the SEC is going after private equity firms because… Continue Reading

FINRA in 2015 – Sales Products

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

Earlier this month, FINRA released its 2015 Regulatory and Examinations Priorities Letter.  In the letter, FINRA lays out its 2015 priorities, which focus on three general areas: 1) Sales Practice; 2) Financial and Operational Priorities; and 3) Market Integrity.  This blog entry will discuss FINRA’s “Sales Practice” priority. FINRA is focused on various sales products… Continue Reading

Why You Need To Think Twice About That New Hire

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

Starting July 1, member firms are required to have written procedures to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information in a registered representative’s U-4 within 30 days of the U-4 being filed with FINRA.  The question that arises is whether the expense of this new type of “investigation” is worth it. In short, member… Continue Reading

Whistleblower Tips Continue to Rise in 2014

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, Dodd-Frank, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

The number of whistleblower tips to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) continues to rise, according to the SEC’s 2014 Annual Report to Congress on the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program.  In the November 17, 2014 report, Sean X. McKessy, Chief, Office of the Whistleblower, notes that his office received 3,620 whistleblower tips in Fiscal Year 2014,… Continue Reading

Reverse-Flash: SEC and FINRA Looking to Slow High-Speed Traders?

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

High-frequency trading is the latest craze hitting the market.  Popularized by Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys, high-frequency or high-speed trading involves the use of sophisticated technological tools and computer algorithms to rapidly trade securities.  According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, high-frequency trading has been “blamed for making stock exchanges less transparent and markets more volatile [and] has disrupted the process… Continue Reading

Who Wants To Speak With Me, Oh No

Posted in Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Compliance and Supervision, Conflicts of Interest, Registered Representatives

Anyone in a service industry has had that dreaded feeling.  You see your email or caller identification and realize it is “that” client trying to reach you.  The client I reference is that extremely difficult client that we all have. The natural inclination for many of us is to not take the call or respond… Continue Reading

No Admit, No Deny – No Longer?

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, SEC Compliance, SEC Enforcement

Admissions by companies in enforcement actions brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) can open the floodgates to follow-on private civil litigation.  Fortunately, the SEC has traditionally settled with companies on a “no admit, no deny” basis.  That has begun to change. As you may recall, in 2011, U.S. District Judge Rakoff of the Southern District of… Continue Reading

So Who Really Thinks They Know Their Customers

Posted in Broker-Dealer Regulation, Compliance and Supervision, Financial Industry Trends, FINRA Compliance, Registered Representatives

As the year winds down to an end, financial advisors should be mindful of next year and the years to come.  Now is as good a time as any to make sure that you know your customer.  The year-end gives you a unique opportunity to get in front of your clients and revisit the year… Continue Reading

So What Can Be Done To Avoid The Quandary Of Clients With Dementia

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

As our population ages, more and more financial advisors will have to deal with clients who have dementia or get dementia.  If a client gets dementia, your options may be limited; it may be too late.  The question all firms should consider is are there things a firm can do before its clients show the… Continue Reading

My Client Has Dementia, Now What

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, Conflicts of Interest, FINRA Compliance, Investment Adviser Regulation

What do you do when your elderly client begins to make bizarre withdrawals?  Is there something wrong when your elderly client starts transferring funds to finance a Nigerian soccer teams?  What if a long lost relative comes on the scene and starts influencing the investments and cash withdrawals of an elderly client?  Unfortunately, many financial… Continue Reading

Look Before You Tweet

Posted in Compliance and Supervision, Conflicts of Interest, FINRA Compliance, FINRA Enforcement, Registered Representatives, Social Media

FINRA recently sanction a registered representative for tweets made some time ago.  The offending tweets referenced a stock that he did not disclose that he owned and were otherwise biased and not backed up by facts.  The registered representative was fined $15,000 and given a ten day suspension.  In the larger scheme of things, a… Continue Reading