The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is warning broker-dealers not to stretch the truth when marketing “free” individual retirement accounts to investors.
In the just-released Regulatory Notice 13-23, FINRA says that some brokers are using “overly broad language” in sales materials, implying that there are no fees charged to investors who have accounts with the firms. In other instances, FINRA says that “specific fees that are not charged are highlighted and separated from disclosure regarding other fees that may be charged,” which may “mislead investors” regarding the cost of opening, maintaining or closing an account.
Broker-dealers’ marketing campaigns “often emphasize that fees are not charged in connection with their retail brokerage accounts and IRAs,” FINRA states.
However, FINRA states that because closing and maintaining accounts typically involve some cost to investors, either associated with the account itself, the underlying investments or the services of the broker-dealer, “it would generally be inconsistent with FINRA Rule 2210’s requirements to claim or imply that accounts are ‘free.’”
For example, referring to an IRA account as a “free IRA” or “no-fee IRA” where costs exist would fail to comply with Rule 2210’s prohibition of false, exaggerated, unwarranted, promissory or misleading statements or claims, the self-regulator says.