John K. Wells

Subscribe to all posts by John K. Wells

FINRA Plans Major Changes to Expungement Rules

FINRA recently issued Notice to Members 17-42, which proposes sweeping changes to the process by which a securities broker may seek to expunge reference to a customer complaint from his or her public record.  The comment period for the proposed rule amendments ended on Feb. 5, 2018.  The proposed changes will now to go the … Continue Reading

Massachusetts Offers Policy Guidance on Investment Advisers’ Use of Robo-Advisers

As robo-advisers continue to grow in popularity with investors, especially millennial investors, at least one regulator is taking a closer look.  On July 14, 2016, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin issued a policy statement addressing the use by investment advisers under his jurisdiction of third-party robo-advisers.  This follows a similar policy statement by … Continue Reading

FINRA Sends Targeted Exam Letter Concerning the Sale of Non-Traded Business Development Companies

FINRA recently sent a sweep letter (or targeted exam letter) to select broker dealers, inquiring about those firms’ sale of non-traded Business Development Companies (BDCs).  BDCs are SEC-registered investment companies (usually closed-end funds) that pool investor funds in a debt or equity portfolio (typically of small- or medium-sized companies), with the objective of generating income … Continue Reading

FINRA Announces Rule 2273, Requiring Broker’s New Firm to Send “Educational Communication” to Broker’s Customers Before Transfer of the Customer’s Assets to the New Firm

FINRA has issued a regulatory notice (RN 16-18) regarding new Rule 2273, which requires member firms, when hiring a new broker from the competition, to send an “educational communication” to that broker’s customers if and when those customers move or seek to move their assets to the hiring firm.  The new rule, which was recently … Continue Reading

Fiduciary Standard Rule for Retirement Accounts Approved

The Department of Labor has given final approval to its long-anticipated “fiduciary standard” regulation.  The new rule – which has been in the works for nearly six years – requires financial advisors who provide investment recommendations for retirement accounts to meet a fiduciary standard by putting clients’ interests before their own.  Previously, a registered representative advising … Continue Reading

SEC Seeks Additional Resources for Examination and Enforcement in FY 2017 Budget Request

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently presented the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request for the SEC to Congress.  Among the notable requests, the SEC seeks significant additional resources for increased examination coverage, primarily of investment advisers and investment companies but also related to broker dealers, crowdfunding portals, and other entities.  The SEC also seeks … Continue Reading

OCC Issues New Guidance and Policies on Enforcement Actions and Civil Monetary Penalties Against Institutions and Individuals

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) recently released new guidance on the process it uses when considering enforcement actions against banking institutions and individuals for potential non-compliance with Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) compliance program requirements and anti-money laundering (“AML”) rules.  At the same time, the OCC also issued a revised policy for … Continue Reading

FINRA Seeks Input From Brokerage Firms on ‘Cultural Values’

FINRA has sent a sweep letter to selected broker dealers in order to learn more about how firms “establish, communicate and implement cultural values,” and whether those values are guiding business conduct.  FINRA conducts sweeps like this periodically in order to gather information that it can then use in focusing its regulatory response to emerging … Continue Reading

Proposed Fiduciary Rule for Retirement Accounts One Step Closer to Reality

Last spring, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a controversial new rule which would govern retirement accounts, including IRAs and qualified employer-sponsored plans.  The rule – which would impose a fiduciary standard of care on advisors who offer advice regarding retirement accounts – is now one step from being finalized.  The Labor Department recently delivered … Continue Reading

Study Shows Dramatic Rise in the SEC’s Use of its Administrative Court for Enforcement Actions

The NYU Pollack Center for Law and Business and Cornerstone Research recently released a study entitled “SEC Enforcement Activity Against Public Company Defendants,” which analyzed enforcement trends between 2010 and 2015.  The study contains some interesting data points related to SEC enforcement, concerning both public and non-public entities, and particularly relating to the SEC’s use … Continue Reading

FINRA Set to Emphasize ‘Firm Culture’ and Ethics as Exam Priorities in 2016

FINRA recently released its 2016 Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter, an annual event which serves to highlight both emerging and existing risks in the financial services industry. The letter serves as a guide to FINRA’s priorities for the upcoming year, and highlights the issues which FINRA deems most important to its regulatory mission at the moment. … Continue Reading

First Circuit Offers Rebuke to SEC in Vacating Sanctions Order

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently overturned an order by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission) in which the Commission had imposed sanctions against two former banking executives for violations of the federal securities laws.  In so doing, the First Circuit offered a stern rebuke to the Commission and its … Continue Reading

SEC Permits Companies to Sell Securities Through Crowdfunding

The SEC has adopted new rules which would permit companies to offer and sell securities through online crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a method of raising capital by monetary contributions from a large number of people, usually through the Internet. The new rules will allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to more easily raise capital, and will permit average citizens … Continue Reading

SEC Enforcement Actions Up in 2015

The SEC has announced its enforcement results for fiscal year 2015, which ended in September.  Enforcement filings for 2015 were up nearly 7% over the previous year.  The SEC filed 807 enforcement actions in 2015 (up from 755), with penalties and disgorgements totaling approximately $4.2 billion (up from $4.16 billion).  In its press release announcing … Continue Reading

States Challenge New SEC Rules on Small Public Offerings

Two states – Massachusetts and Montana – have filed suit against the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), challenging the validity of the SEC’s “Regulation A+”  rules on the grounds that the new rules will reduce the states’ powers to review securities offerings before they are sold to the public.  So-called “Regulation A” previously permitted … Continue Reading

SEC Approves New Rule Requiring BrokerCheck Link on Websites

The SEC has approved a proposal to amend FINRA Rule 2210, which governs “Communications with the Public.” The new rule will require Internet hyperlinks to FINRA’s BrokerCheck database on websites maintained by broker-dealers, their branch offices, and their registered representatives. BrokerCheck is a searchable database that contains the employment, registration, and disciplinary histories of all … Continue Reading

New Fee Disclosure Model Proposed for Broker-Dealers

A securities industry working group has proposed a new fee disclosure model for broker-dealers.  The working group – which was convened by the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) and included FINRA, SIFMA, the Financial Services Institute, and several broker-dealers – was created in the summer of 2014 with the goal of promoting accessibility, standardization, … Continue Reading

FINRA Announces Proposed New Rules to Protect Senior Investors

FINRA has proposed new rules to protect senior investors and other vulnerable adults from financial exploitation. The proposed rules would require member firms to make reasonable efforts, at the time of account opening for a senior investor, to obtain the name and contact information of a trusted contact person. The proposed rules would also allow firms to … Continue Reading
LexBlog