A federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled on Wednesday that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) does not have the right to take its members to court to enforce its disciplinary actions, The New York Times reported.
The ruling, which The Times calls a “surprise decision,” curbs the powers of FINRA and came after a 14-year fight waged by Fiero Brothers, a tiny penny-stock brokerage firm, and its owner, John J. Fiero.
In December 2000, after legal disputes that lasted several years, The Times says that FINRA accused Fiero and his firm of violating federal fraud statutes—specifically, “engaging in a manipulative activity known as naked short-selling. Besides expelling the firm, the regulator imposed a $1 million fine.”
The firm was shuttered and its owner was barred from the market, but both refused to pay the fine and, ultimately, FINRA wound up in federal court trying to collect the money, The Times reported.
But a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that FINRA had no right to shutter the firm and bar its owner. In an opinion written by Judge Ralph K. Winter Jr., The Times writes that “the panel unexpectedly overturned a lower court and ruled that neither the nation’s foundational securities laws, adopted in 1934, nor a ‘housekeeping’ rule adopted by FINRA in 1990 gave it the right to pursue its monetary sanctions in court.”
“The principal issue is whether the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. has the authority to bring court actions to collect disciplinary fines,” Winter wrote. “We hold that it does not and reverse.”