The Massachusetts Securities Division says it is conducting a sweep of state-registered broker-dealers with “an above average number of representatives with current misconduct reports on their record to learn details of the firms’ hiring policies and procedures.”
The regulatory body has reached out to 241 firms where more than 15% of advisors have at least one current disclosure incident on their record. The firms were given two weeks to respond with the requested information on hiring since Jan. 1, 2014, and must tell regulators the number of representatives terminated or placed on heightened supervision in that period.
“My office diligently works to keep the bad actors out of the Commonwealth,” said Commonwealth Secretary William F. Galvin, the state’s top securities regulator, in a statement. “This sweep is intended to establish how the industry is meeting this critical investor protection responsibility of keeping the rogue broker out of the industry.”
At least one industry observer says the steps taken by Massachusetts regulators are a good thing for the industry. “Regulators are cracking down on broker-dealers that are providing havens for rogue brokers,” said Mark Elzweig, head of the executive search consultancy Mark Elzweig Co. in New York, in an interview. “They are focusing on firms that are regular destinations for advisors with serious compliance issues — those who’ve been terminated and those who require special supervision.
“Some firms have built their businesses by serving as ‘go-to destinations’ for advisors with serious compliance issues,” the recruiter said. “Penalizing these firms and shutting down these unsavory business practices is a good thing for the industry as a whole.”
Galvin’s actions appear to come in response to the study and recent actions taken by FINRA. The report was written by the University of Minnesota’s Mark Egan and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business’ Gregor Matvos and Amit Seru; it examined 10 years of records from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck database. The authors claim that advisor misconduct “is broader than a few heavily publicized scandals.”