FINRA headquarters in New York. (Photo: Ron Pechtimaldjian)

Acting on feedback from the FINRA360 initiative, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said Wednesday that it plans to consolidate its existing enforcement functions into a new, unified enforcement group to be led by Susan Schroeder.

Schroeder, executive vice president and head of enforcement, will report directly to the self-regulator’s CEO, Robert Cook.

(Related: FINRA’s Axelrod Warns Financial Industry: Adapt or Die)

The new unit will bring together two distinct enforcement teams at FINRA: one handling disciplinary actions related to trading-based matters found through Market Regulation’s surveillance and examination programs, and the other handling cases referred from other regulatory oversight divisions including Member Regulation, Corporate Financing, the Office of Fraud Detection and Market Intelligence and Advertising Regulation, FINRA said.

The changes are designed to ensure a “uniform approach to charging and sanctions, and to enable FINRA to better target developing issues that can harm investors and market integrity,” according to the self-regulator.

“A vigorous and effective enforcement program is central to FINRA’s mission of protecting investors and promoting market integrity,” Cook said in a statement.

“After careful study, we have determined that this new structure will better enable this critical program to achieve those important goals in the years to come.”

Schroeder has been acting Head of Enforcement since former FINRA enforcement chief Brad Bennett left earlier this year. Her previous role was as senior vice president and deputy chief of enforcement.

Bennett, now a partner at Baker Botts in Washington, told ThinkAdvisor in a Wednesday email message that he views the new enforcement unit as “the first result of the FiINRA360 process. It shows that Robert Cook will be taking a vigorous approach to enforcement.”

Schroeder, Bennett said, “is an outstanding lawyer and was largely responsible for the excellent results achieved by thinner enforcement over the past six years.”

Schroeder, Cook said, “has consistently demonstrated deep commitment to protecting investors and to promoting strong, safe markets. We look forward to her leadership as we continue to focus through FINRA360 on further enhancements to our enforcement program, as well as to other aspects of our regulatory programs and operations.”

Schroeder added in the statement that she’s “honored to lead this newly combined group of talented and dedicated professionals. We all share a commitment to highly effective and efficient regulatory oversight, and this unified structure will improve our ability to streamline investigations, share information, and maximize our resources to protect investors and the markets.”

Consolidation is to begin immediately, according to FINRA, and will be overseen by a steering committee of senior executives.

The committee also will seek input from FINRA’s exchange clients for whom FINRA performs enforcement-related services.

Schroeder holds a J.D. from New York University School of Law, an M.A. from the University of California at Davis, and a B.A. from Georgetown University.

— Check out FINRA Advances Crackdown on Bad Brokers on ThinkAdvisor.