Wealth & Risk Management Blog

William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Posts Tagged ‘Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’

FINRA Sets Regulatory Sights on Structured Products

Posted by William Byrnes on January 11, 2012


The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is targeting structured products over concerns about unsuitable sales to retail customers. In an exclusive interview with AdvisorOne (a Summit Business Media product) Bradley Bennett, enforcement chief at FINRA, said that the agency’s caseload on the recent financial crisis has eased up, and the agency is ready to renew its focus on structured products.

Structured products are often marketed to retail customers without an adequate explanation of their associated risks.  “They purport to give the alchemy of lowering risk while increasing yield,” Bennett said, “but the risk needs to be explained” both to the broker-dealer’s “sales force and customers, and be suitable given the customer’s financial circumstances.”

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of structured products in Advisor’s Journal, see SEC Warns Investors about Principal Protected Notes (CC 11-117).

For in-depth analysis of structured products, see Advisor’s Main Library: 7774. What is a structured product? How are structured products taxed?

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SEC Warns Investors about Principal Protected Notes

Posted by William Byrnes on November 3, 2011


In a low-interest rate world, high-yield investments offering principal protection are enticing to investors. But the complexity of some high-end investment products has the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) warning investors to look before they leap.

In an alert titled Structured Notes with Principal Protection: Note the Terms of Your Investment, the regulators warn investors that these structured products may not be what they seem. Although they are marketed under a variety of names with a “principal protection” component—e.g. “absolute return” and “minimum return”—the true extent of their safety is never obvious . Investors need to read the fine print to decide whether they are suitable for their investing needs and risk tolerance.

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

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FINRA Puts Disciplinary Histories on Web

Posted by William Byrnes on September 29, 2011


Disciplinary histories are becoming easier to access. Brokers’ disciplinary histories are now prominently displayed for the web savvy public; they’re no longer filed away at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), where only the most diligent investors will find them. FINRA has made your disciplinary history freely and easily available to the public by launching a web-accessible discipline database.

Whether the easy accessibility of the information is a  beneficial will depend on a broker’s history. Those with a clean record will undoubtedly benefit from the easy accessibility of the information and the ease with which clients and prospects can search their record and compare it to others. Those with a negative history, whether deserved or not, may now find themselves on the defensive with prospects more often.

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of FINRA complaint and disciplinary procedure in Advisor’s Journal, see FINRA Rule 45-30: Expansive New Complaint Report Requirements (CC 11-96) & Broker Bonus Arbitration Bottleneck Forces FINRA to Reconsider Arbitrator Qualification Standards (CC 11-08).

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FINRA Changes the Rules on How Low-Price Equities Are Traded

Posted by William Byrnes on September 7, 2011


The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) has issued a regulatory notice addressing price volatility concerns associated with low-priced equity securities in customer margin and firm proprietary accounts. The notice advises that special attention be given to low-priced equity securities; price volatility is usually associated with low-priced equities because they are inherently volatile.

But what does FINRA consider a“low-price equity,” and what is the impact for you and your clients?

FINRA advises firms to weigh the risks that come with low-priced equity securities before extending credit in strategy-based or portfolio margin accounts. FINRA cautions firms to consider “volatility and concentrated positions in a single customer account and across all customer accounts, as well as the daily volume and market capitalization of each security when imposing ‘house’ maintenance margin requirements.”

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of FINRA-issued guidance in Advisor’s Journal, see Getting Your Feet Wet in the Social Media Market (CC 11-79) & SEC Says “Not So Fast” to Advisor Social Media Marketing (CC 11-40).

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FINRA Rule 45-30: Expansive new Complaint Report Requirements

Posted by William Byrnes on September 2, 2011


FINRA is digging deep into your customer comment box, and starting July 21, nothing will be off limits to the regulator.

Brokerages often expand beyond securities activities to diversify their income streams and broaden the scope of services they offer their clients. Keeping up with the assorted regulators and what are often cumbersome and confusing combinations of rules has always been a chore for those firms.

Not long ago, firms at least have been able to keep their professions separated, dealing, for instance, with securities and insurance regulators as isolated entities with little overlap in their bailiwicks. But increasingly, regulators like FINRA are erasing this dichotomy, peaking into all of a firm’s activities, even activities that are unrelated to the subject of the regulator’s jurisdiction.

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of FINRA rulemaking in Advisor’s Journal, see FINRA Plans New Power Grab as SEC Falter (CC 11-67), Broker Bonus Arbitration Bottleneck Forces FINRA to Reconsider Arbitrator Qualification Standards (CC 11-08), and SEC Approves FINRA Suitability and Know-Your-Customer Rules (CC 11-17).

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Private Placements Becoming Much Riskier for Firms

Posted by William Byrnes on August 14, 2011


There may be an increased need for caution when offering the newest private placements to clients. FINRA and the SEC are actively examining private placements and the firms that sell them. And if the regulators believe that something is amiss, they won’t hesitate to impose severe fines on everyone involved in the sale. As part of its ongoing sweep of firms that sold interests in failed private placements, FINRA has issued sanctions against two firms and seven individual principals of those firms. FINRA accuses them of causing significant investor losses by failing to conduct a reasonable investigation before offering the private placements for sale to investors.

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber)

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What’s Driving the Increasing Appeal of the RIA Model?

Posted by William Byrnes on August 4, 2011


A large majority (86%) of advisors who are with an independent broker-dealer find the idea of life at an independent registered investment advisor (RIA) appealing, according to a Schwab Advisor Services study released on March 29th. And when the advisor knows someone who has already made the switch, the number who like the idea of making a move to the RIA model jumps to 95%.

One significant consideration for advisors considering a switch to an RIA is regulatory. Those who fully transition to the RIA model will dump FINRA for the SEC. But whether that’s an advantage or downside to the transition is open for debate.

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

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FINRA Plans New Power Grab as SEC Falters

Posted by William Byrnes on August 2, 2011


FINRA is continuing its recent power-grab in the face of a largely impotent and underfunded Securities and Exchange Commission. As the next stage in an increasing series of regulations and information reporting requirements, plans are in the works for a new-and-improved examination program that could further increase the information reporting requirements of member firms and significantly increase their compliance burden.

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of FINRA regulatory action in Advisor’s Journal, see Broker Bonus Arbitration Bottleneck Forces FINRA to Reconsider Arbitrator Qualification Standards (CC 11-08),  SEC Approves FINRA Suitability and Know-Your-Customer Rules (CC 11-17), & New FINRA Rule Restricts Brokers’ Outside Business Activities (CC 10-110).

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Beware Private Placements: Lessons From MedCap, Provident and DBSI

Posted by William Byrnes on April 26, 2011


FINRA and the SEC are actively examining private placements and the firms that sell them. If the regulators believe that something is amiss, they won’t hesitate to impose severe fines on everyone involved in the sale.

FINRA has issued sanctions against two firms and seven individual principals of those firms.  FINRA accuses them of causing significant investor losses by failing to conduct a reasonable investigation before offering the private placements for sale to investors.

Read this two-page article by linking to AdvisorOne – a National Underwriters Summit Business open-access original content wealth management news portal.

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Tips for Advisors to Get Started in the Social Media Market

Posted by William Byrnes on April 25, 2011


If you’re one of the two out of three financial professionals who are out of the social media loop, you could be missing opportunities to boost your advisory business. Although the SEC and FINRA are cracking down on firms for social media misuse, there’s still a wealth of untapped marketing potential for advisors brave enough forge into this new territory.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be used to build opportunities – if you know how to use them to the best of your advantage. Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era, believes that social media marketing, with training and best practices, can be a formula for success. Shih offers tips to help advisors gain success by using social media as a tool to grow their advisory business by connecting with prospective clients and strengthening existing client relationships.

Read this two-page article by linking to AdvisorOne – a National Underwriters Summit Business open-access original content wealth management news portal.

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SEC Says “Not so Fast” to Advisor Social Media marketing

Posted by William Byrnes on April 11, 2011


Social media marketing is quickly becoming many industries’ go-to medium for low-cost, high-yield advertising, but the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) may be saying “no so fast” to investment advisors.  But the SEC isn’t just asking for general information about advisors’ use of social media. Advisors are also being asked to provide a copy of “communications” made by the advisor on social media sites, including the text of postings, tweets and other messages sent by the firm.  Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of SEC initiatives and rulemaking in Advisor’s Journal, see SEC Waffles in Study on Improving RIA Oversight (CC 11-24)Advisors Hit with Another Round of SEC Reporting Rules (CC 11-30)SEC Approves FINRA Suitability and Know-Your-Customer Rules (CC 11-17).

For marketing tips, see the “Soft Skills” segment of Advanced Markets AdvisorFX: The 7 Deadly Sins of Chief Marketing OfficersTo the Moon, Alice!—How to Market Even Though People Are Fed Up with Marketing, & Marketing to the Millennials.

 

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SEC Unprepared to Implement the Fiduciary Standard for Broker-Dealers

Posted by William Byrnes on March 28, 2011


Broker-dealers will be subject to a fiduciary standard of care no earlier than the second half of 2012, predicts Richard Ketchum, Chairman and CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”).  Mr. Ketchum’s remarks come a week after SEC chairman Mary Schapiro said that the SEC has “a lot of work to do” before putting “pen to paper” and writing the fiduciary standard rules.

Causes of the delay were hinted at by a pair of reports issued by the SEC last month, one of which concluded that broker-dealers and registered investment advisers (“RIA”) should be subject to the same fiduciary standard of care. The other report provided recommendations for improving the examination of investment advisors, concluding that a Self-Regulatory Organization (“SRO”) should be appointed to conduct examinations of investment advisors. An SRO is a private organization that is granted some regulatory authority over a particular industry. SROs are typically funded by member user fees.  Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of the fiduciary standard in Advisor’s Journal, see SEC Fiduciary Standard Study Answers Few Questions (CC 11-25)Study Finds that Universal Fiduciary Standard Will Hurt Investors (CC 10-97) and What You Don’t Know Yet Might Hurt You: A Broker’s Duties under the Financial Reform Act (CC 10 40)

Your questions and comments are always welcome. Please post them below or call the Panel of Experts.

 

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SEC Waffles in Study on Improving RIA Oversight

Posted by William Byrnes on March 11, 2011


The SEC has finally released its Dodd-Frank mandated study on enhancing registered investment adviser (RIA) examinations, but the study is more a tale of SEC budgetary distress than a concrete plan to improve examinations. Although the study hints at the regulatory framework that is likely to emerge for RIAs in the coming months, it doesn’t conclude with a definitive solution to the problem. Although the study does not conclude with a specific plan for improving adviser examinations, the scope of the RIA examination problem and the funding problems revealed make it clear that change is coming for RIAs—change likely to be paid for by increased user fees.

Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

 

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SEC Approves FINRA Suitability and Know-Your-Customer Rules

Posted by William Byrnes on February 26, 2011


The SEC recently approved FINRA proposed rules—FINRA Rules 2090 and 2011—that amend and consolidate know-your-customer and suitability obligations for broker-dealers and their authorized representatives.  The new rules are based on, and replace in-part, similar NYSE and NASD rules. According to FINRA, the amended know-your-customer and suitability rules are intended to protect investors by “promoting fair dealing with customers and ethical sales practices.”

The new rules are effective as of October 7, 2011.  For previous coverage of the suitability standard and the debate over the proposed fiduciary standard in Advisor’s Journal, see What You Don’t Know Yet Might Hurt You: A Broker’s Duties under the Financial Reform Act (CC 10-40) and Study Finds that Universal Fiduciary Standard Will Hurt Investors (CC 10-97).

Under the know-your-customer rule, firms are required to use reasonable diligence respecting the opening and maintenance of every account and to know essential facts about every customer. “Essential facts” are facts required to …. Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

 

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Broker Bonus Arbitration Bottleneck Forces FINRA to Reconsider Arbitrator Qualification Standards

Posted by William Byrnes on February 7, 2011


Brokerages are increasingly looking to claw back signing bonuses from bonus baby brokers who leave for another firm. Signing bonuses at the big broker-dealers saw a big jump in 2008, just as the economy took a dive. Signing bonuses of up to $3 million were being offered to brokers who generated $1 million in commissions and fees in the prior year. And a few bonuses paid at Wall Street firms were reported to have been as high as $10 million. But because many of the bonuses were based on the prior year’s inflated numbers, brokerage firms ended up paying too much for too little performance during an economic slowdown.

Now a bottleneck is developing in arbitration cases dealing with brokers’ signing bonuses, forcing FINRA to reduce the qualifications for persons serving as arbitrators in order to expand its rolls and push the cases through the system. About 1,100 bonus cases have been filed by brokerages as of December 12, compared to just 415 cases in 2008. About 17 percent of 2010 FINRA arbitration cases were bonus-related cases.  Read this complete analysis of the impact at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of broker and securities arbitration in Advisor’s Journal, see FINRA Proposes Eliminating Industry Insiders from Arbitration Panels (CC 10-80) and Mandatory Securities Arbitration Clauses on the Chopping Block (CC 10-48).

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FINRA Positions Itself to Oversee Advisers

Posted by William Byrnes on December 8, 2010


NASD executive office on K Street in downtown ...

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Buzz about the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) taking responsibility for regulation of investment advisers has been circulating for a couple of years now—but the talk is suddenly sounding less like gossip and a lot more like a plan. Last week, FINRA’s chief executive, Richard Ketchum, sent a letter to the SEC touting the benefits of appointing a self-regulatory organization (SRO) to oversee advisors. Although Ketchum’s letter does not directly ask the SEC to cede some of its regulatory authority over advisers to FINRA, hints abound.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed earlier this year, mandates an SEC study of its investment advisor examinations and whether delegation of advisor regulation to an SRO would improve examinations.  Read this complete article at AdvisorFX (sign up for a free trial subscription with full access to all of the planning libraries and client presentations if you are not already a subscriber).

For previous coverage of FINRA in Advisor’s Journal, see FINRA Proposes Eliminating Industry Insiders from Arbitration Panels (CC 10-80).

We invite your questions and comments by posting them below, or by calling the Panel of Experts.

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