For more than 70 years, FINRA has played a critical role in America's financial system, working to protect investors. Today, nearly 53 million American investing households count on us to make sure the securities markets operate fairly and honestly.
I am proud to be running an organization that plays a role in regulating nearly every aspect of the securities business. At FINRA, we work to protect investors by registering and educating all brokers, examining securities firms, writing the rules they must follow and enforcing those rules and federal securities laws. We also monitor trading in the U.S. stock markets and administer the largest securities-related dispute resolution forum in the world.
Given the pace of change in the marketplace, it's more important than ever that regulators be prepared to act quickly. We've strengthened our ability to identify high-risk firms, brokers, activities and products—and we continue to enhance our regulatory programs in order to focus on the greatest risks to investors.
When the rules are broken, FINRA takes action. Our strong and vigorous enforcement program brings discipline where investors have been harmed. In 2012, we barred 294 individuals and suspended 549 brokers from association with FINRA-regulated firms, levied fines totaling more than $68 million and ordered $34 million in restitution to harmed investors.
We have also increased our efforts to fight fraud, and to that end, have established several programs to help us root out bad actors and help consumers protect themselves. In early 2009, we created the Office of the Whistleblower, and later that year, also established the Office of Fraud Detection and Market Intelligence. Through this office, staff with expertise in fraud detection and investigation can provide a heightened review of potentially serious frauds.
FINRA believes that investor education is a critical component of investor protection. Over the last decade, we have worked hard to develop a strong investor education outreach program. We produce alerts, interactive tools and educational content to help investors make wise financial decisions. Our BrokerCheck tool, for example, provides investors with a quick way to check a broker's disciplinary and professional background. Encouraging people to take this simple step before doing business—or continuing to do business—with a broker is part of our greater commitment to protecting investors.
We also offer information and tools to help investors stay on top of what's happening in the markets. In FINRA's Market Data Center, investors can find information and data on equities, options, bonds, mutual funds and more. Our Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (TRACE) system helps investors better monitor their bond investments by providing them with timely and accurate pricing information for corporate and agency bonds.
In addition to FINRA's work to educate the general public, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation—the largest foundation in the United States dedicated to investor education—also plays a key role in serving the unique financial education needs of certain underserved populations, such as military servicemembers and older investors.
These efforts are just part of what we do each day to support our important mission of protecting investors.
Richard G. Ketchum
Chairman and CEO