Full Records of Brokers Leaving Industry to Remain Available for 10 Years; Criminal Convictions, Civil Injunctions, More to Remain Available Permanently
WASHINGTON — The amount of information available to the public about current and former securities brokers will expand significantly in coming months, as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) implements changes to its free, online BrokerCheck service recently approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The changes will increase the number of customer complaints reported publicly; extend the public disclosure period for the full record of a broker who leaves the industry from two years to 10 years; and, make certain information about former brokers available permanently, such as criminal convictions and certain civil injunctive actions and arbitration awards against the broker.
The changes will also formalize a dispute process for current or former brokers to dispute the accuracy of, or update, factual information disclosed through BrokerCheck.
"This additional information will benefit investors who are considering whether to conduct, or continue to conduct, business with a particular securities firm or broker," said FINRA Chairman and CEO Rick Ketchum. "Just as important, it will provide valuable information about persons who have left the securities industry, often not of their own accord, who have established themselves in other segments of the financial services industry and can still cause great harm to the investing public."
When the expansion is implemented, BrokerCheck will:
- Disclose all "historic" complaints against a broker dating back to 1999, when electronic filing of broker information began. Generally, historic complaints are customer complaints, arbitrations or litigations more than two years old that have not been adjudicated or have been settled for an amount less than the reporting requirement (currently $15,000). They are currently reported on BrokerCheck when the broker has three or more currently disclosable regulatory actions, customer complaints, arbitrations, litigations or historic complaints. The expanded BrokerCheck will disclose all historic complaints dating back to 1999 for individual brokers who are currently registered or whose registrations were terminated within the preceding 10 years.
- Expand the disclosure period for former brokers. Currently, a broker's record is publicly available for two years after he or she leaves the securities industry. That two-year period coincides with the period in which an individual remains subject to FINRA's jurisdiction and within which an individual can return to the industry without having to take re-qualifying exams. The expanded BrokerCheck will make a former broker's record public for 10 years, so investors can access information about individuals who may work in other sectors of the financial services industry or who have attained other positions of trust.
- Further expand the amount of information that is permanently available on former brokers. Last year, BrokerCheck started making information about final regulatory actions (i.e. bars, suspensions, fines, etc.) against former brokers permanently available to the public. The expanded BrokerCheck will make additional information that has been reported to FINRA since 1999 permanently available – including reportable criminal convictions or pleas of guilty or nolo contendere; civil injunctions or findings of involvement in a violation of any investment-related statute or regulation; and, arbitration awards or civil judgments based on the individual's involvement in alleged sales practice violations.
- Formalize the process for current and former brokers to dispute the accuracy of factual information disclosed through BrokerCheck. Brokers will be able to submit a written notice of the dispute to FINRA – FINRA will post the appropriate form on its website – with all available supporting documentation. If FINRA determines that the dispute is eligible for investigation, it will add a general notation to the broker's BrokerCheck report stating that the broker is disputing certain information in the report – and that notation will only be removed when FINRA has resolved the dispute. If its investigation shows the information is in fact inaccurate, FINRA will update, modify or remove that information as appropriate.
The BrokerCheck expansion will be implemented in two phases. In late August, historic complaints will be added to the public records of all current and former brokers. By the end of the year, full records will be publicly available for all brokers whose registrations have terminated within the last 10 years. Also by the end of the year, the additional information that will be permanently available will be added to the records of the appropriate former brokers and the formal dispute process will be fully in place.
Full details on BrokerCheck's upcoming expansion will be available in a FINRA Regulatory Notice to be published in the near future.
FINRA is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services. FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business – from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms, writing and enforcing rules and the federal securities laws, informing and educating the investing public, providing trade reporting and other industry utilities, and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and registered firms. For more information, please visit our website at www.finra.org.