The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) imposed approximately $135 million in fines in 2014, a whopping 125 percent jump from the $60 million in fines the regulator assessed in 2013, and the largest amount of fines since the financial crisis in 2008, according to a just-released analysis by the law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.
Fines by the self-regulator increased by 382 percent since FINRA reported assessing $28 million in fines in 2008, said Sutherland, which bases its findings on information revealed in FINRA’s monthly disciplinary notices and press releases, as well as cases reported in major news sources.
Most notable is the $8 million in fines assessed in 2014 from cases involving allegations about seniors and retirees, an astounding increase of 3,656 percent from the $213,000 in fines imposed in similar cases in 2013, Sutherland found.
Restitution in cases involving retirees and seniors also increased substantially from $1.7 million in 2013 to $26 million in 2014.
Sutherland notes that the dramatic increase in fines is notable in light of the fact that the number of cases reported by FINRA decreased significantly in 2014.
“FINRA’s large increase in fines cannot be ignored,” said Brian Rubin, co-author of the Sutherland study, in a statement. “Even though FINRA has not brought cases of the same magnitude as some of the SEC’s enforcement actions, firms and individuals must still sit up and take notice of the kind of year FINRA had and the messages sent through its enforcement cases.”
According to FINRA’s Statistical Review, 1,397 disciplinary actions were filed in 2014, a decrease of 9 percent from the 1,535 cases the regulator initiated in 2013. Despite the fact that this was the second year in a row that the number of FINRA cases has declined, the number of cases filed has still grown by 30 percent since 2008 and from 1,073 in 2008 to the 1,397 cases filed in 2014, the law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan found.
Sutherland’s analysis also found that the number of firms expelled by FINRA declined from 24 in 2013 to 18 in 2014, a decrease of 25 percent (following a 20 percent decrease in the number of firms expelled during the prior year).
However, the number of individuals suspended or barred rose in 2014 — with individuals suspended jumping from 670 in 2013 to 705 in 2014, an increase of 5 percent, and the number of individuals barred increasing from 429 in 2013 to 481 in 2014, an increase of 12 percent.