The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced Monday it’s proposing a major expansion of its BrokerCheck service to make records of final regulatory actions against brokers permanently available to the public, regardless of whether they continue to be employed in the securities industry.
The firm says final regulatory actions by the SEC, regulatory organizations and the States are to be included in permanent disclosure to the public.
Under current rules, a broker’s record generally becomes unavailable to the public two years after he or she leaves the securities industry and is therefore no longer under FINRA’s jurisdiction.
The firm filed its rule proposal to expand BrokerCheck with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) late last week. The SEC will publish the proposal in the Federal Register and solicit public comment in the near future.
“It has never been more critical for investors to research the backgrounds of the people who approach them with investment proposals,” said Richard Ketchum, FINRA chairman and CEO in a released statement. “Individuals previously barred by FINRA and other securities regulators have surfaced in a number of recent frauds responsible for millions lost by unsuspecting investors. Investors should be able to check if the financial professional they’re dealing with has been the subject of a disciplinary action by regulators.”
BrokerCheck is a free online service through which investors can instantly see the employment, qualifications and disciplinary history of more than 650,000 brokers under FINRA’s jurisdiction. FINRA estimates there are more than 15,000 individuals who have left the securities industry after being the subject of a final regulatory action and whose disciplinary history is not currently available on BrokerCheck. The firm says in 2008, individuals used BrokerCheck to conduct 11.6 million reviews of brokers or firm records.
Final regulatory actions — such as bars, suspensions and fines — against a particular individual can be found in various places on the Internet, including on FINRA’s own Web site, by searching individual monthly disciplinary reports. FINRA says the proposal would make that information easily and centrally accessible through BrokerCheck.
Monday’s proposal follows another suggestion to revise Forms U4 and U5 that would require reporting allegations of sales practice complaints made against registered persons in a civil lawsuit or arbitration, even if the registered person is not named in the arbitration claim or civil litigation.
The proposal received backlash from the Financial Services Institute, which issued a summarized letter of opposition to the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 17.