FINRA has some common sense advice for avoiding investment scams

  1. Guarantees: Be suspect of anyone who guarantees that an investment will perform a certain way. All investments carry some degree of risk.
  2. Unregistered products: Many investment scams involve unlicensed individuals selling unregistered securities, ranging from stocks, bonds, notes, hedge funds, oil or gas deals, or fictitious instruments, such as prime bank investments.
  3. Overly consistent returns: Any investment that consistently goes up month after month, or that provides remarkably steady returns regardless of market conditions, should raise suspicions, especially during turbulent times. Even the most stable investments can experience hiccups once in a while.
  4. Complex strategies: Avoid anyone who credits a highly complex investing technique for unusual success. Legitimate professionals should be able to explain clearly what they are doing. It is critical that you fully understand any investment that you are considering, including what it is, what the risks are and how the investment makes money.
  5. Missing documentation: If someone tries to sell you a security with no documentation, such as a no prospectus in the case of a stock or mutual fund, and no offering circular in the case of a bond, he/she may be selling unregistered securities. The same is true of stocks without stock symbols.
  6. Account discrepancies: Unauthorized trades, missing funds or other problems with your account statements could be the result of a genuine error or they could indicate churning or fraud. Keep an eye on account statements to ensure that activity is consistent with your instructions, and know who holds your assets. For instance, is the investment adviser also the custodian? Or is there an independent third-party custodian? It can be easier for fraud to occur if an adviser is also the custodian of the assets and keeper of the accounts.
March 28th, 2014|Educational Series, Fraud|

New FINRA rule for reporting requirements

FINRA’s Rule 4530, modeled after NASD Rule 3070 and NYSE Rule 351, went into effect on July 1, 2011. The rule requires all member firms to:

  • report to FINRA certain specified events and quarterly statistical and summary information regarding written customer complaints, and
  • file with FINRA documents of certain criminal actions, civil complaints and arbitration claims.

A member firm has 30 calendar days to report to FINRA violations of any securities, insurance, commodities, financial or investment laws, rules, regulations or standards of conduct committed by the firm or its associated persons.  The 30-day period begins when the firm has concluded, or reasonably should have concluded, that a violation has occurred. Below is a summary of the provision.

  • Firms are not required to report every instance of non-compliant conduct, but they must report conduct that has widespread or potential widespread impact to the firm, its customers or the markets, or conduct that arises from a material failure of the firm’s systems, policies or practices involving numerous customers, multiple errors or significant dollar amounts.
  • Violative conduct by an associated person must be reported only when it has widespread or potential widespread impact to the firm, its customers or the markets; conduct that has a significant monetary result on a member firm(s), customer(s) or market(s); or multiple instances of any violative conduct.
  • The “reasonably should have concluded” standard is applied on a good faith basis (by the firm) if a reasonable person would have concluded that a violation has occurred; if a reasonable person would not have concluded that a violation occurred, then the matter is not reportable. Firms must establish who, within the firm, is responsible for making such determinations. Stating that a violation was of a nature that did not merit consideration by the responsible person is not a defense to a failure to report such conduct.
  • The reporting obligation and internal review processes set forth under other rules – eg., FINRA Rule 3130 – are mutually exclusive.
  • While internal review processes may point to a firm’s determination that a specific violation has occurred, they do not by themselves lead to the conclusion that the matter is reportable – e.g., FINRA would not view a discussion in an internal audit report regarding the need for enhanced controls in a particular area, standing alone, as determinative of a reportable violation.  An internal audit finding would serve only as one factor, among others, that a firm should consider in determining whether a reportable violation occurred.
  • Certain disciplinary actions taken by a firm against an associated person must be reported under a separate provision, rather than under the internal conclusion provision.

In addition to the above “internal conclusions” obligations, the new rules for “other reportable events” as per NASD Rule 3070 and NYSE Rule 351, have been modified somewhat in Rule 4530. For example, more customer disputes may have to be reported, as the new rule will now include attorney’s fees and interest penalties in customer settlements or awards with damages against a broker of $15,000 or more and against a firm of $25,000 or more, thus lowering the calculations threshold for reporting requirements.

August 16th, 2011|Legislation|

Investment advisers miss deadline for filing new “plain English” ADV Part 2

For most investment advisers, the deadline for preparing and submitting the new Form ADV Part 2 was March 31, 2011, and many missed it, according to industry sources. All investment advisers registered with the SEC are mandated to file the new Form ADV Part 2 or disclosure brochure within 90 days of their fiscal year end. For the majority, the fiscal year ends on December 31, which means that the new form should have been filed by March 31, 2011. Most state securities regulators have ratified similar requirements.

Securities lawyers indicate that investment advisers who missed the filing deadline are likely in violation of several investment advisory rules, and may be subjected to possible actions by the regulators, ranging from warnings and fines to revocation of registration. At a minimum, a failure to submit the new form may flag the adviser as lacking strong compliance controls and requiring heightened scrutiny.

The new form rulings, adopted by the SEC in October 2010, required 18 sections on fees, soft-dollar pay arrangements, investment strategies and disciplinary histories, along with a supplement detailing each adviser’s background. An SEC spokesperson said that the changes “will allow clients access to information about advisers of a wholly different character and quality than was available under the previous regime. It will enable investors to better evaluate their current advisers, or comparison-shop for an adviser that best serves a particular need. Most significantly, this disclosure may result in advisers modifying their business practices and compensation policies which may pose conflicts, in ways that better serve the interests of the clients.” For more information, see

April 28th, 2011|Educational Series, Legislation|
Go to Top