How to File Communications with Advertising Regulation

Firms can file communications for review via Advertising Regulation Electronic Files (AREF), an online application. In addition, firms can use AREF to view, print and save the department’s review letters. 

The vast majority of communications are filed electronically through AREF. However, firms still wishing to submit hard copies must use the Filing Cover Sheet.  Effective September 28, 2015, FINRA migrated the AREF system to a new platform that allows firms to submit advertising-related files through a wide variety of formats and to submit larger files. 

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About Advertising Regulation Electronic Files (AREF)

Advertising Regulation Electronic Files (AREF) is a Web-based application that enables FINRA member firms to file communications with the public for review by FINRA's Advertising Regulation Department. In addition, firms may use AREF to view, print, and save letters about communications filed for review. Firms may also access real time filing fee information via AREF.

Effective October 16, 2017, FINRA enhanced AREF to allow firms the option to submit websites and web pages in their native format (e.g., .html). Firms that choose to use the new capability will package websites or web pages in a compressed file format and submit them through the AREF System for review by FINRA. Firms will include in their submissions a manifest that lists each unique web page address (Uniform Resource Locator or URL) submitted for review. FINRA also enhanced AREF to allow firms the option to submit the Android version of their mobile application file (e.g., .apk) as supporting documentation when filing the point-in-time capture of the application.

The enhanced AREF system provides firms with the ability to:

  • submit audio and video files in formats such as mp4, wmv and wav, as well as files in MS Office formats such as Excel and PowerPoint and, not be limited only to PDF files;
  • submit file sizes up to 500MB;
  • save filings in draft status prior to submission to FINRA;
  • upload more than two supporting documents on an initial filing; and
  • perform improved searches and filtering functions on filings submitted.

Use of the systems is voluntary. FINRA will continue to send comment letters by mail (and, for expedited filings, by facsimile) unless you choose to receive electronic copies only.

  • You may go directly to Firm Gateway via the following URL:
  • Questions regarding obtaining access to the system can be directed by phone to (800) 321-6273 or by email.
  • Questions regarding the comment letters that appear on AREF or about the advertising rules may be directed to the Advertising Regulation Department staff at (240) 386-4500.

Training Guides and Documentation

Frequently Asked Questions


1. What rules apply to communications with the public?
In general, FINRA member firms' communications with the public must comply with FINRA Rule 2210. Depending on the nature of the content, a communication may also need to comply with:
Options communications must comply with FINRA Rule 2220.

In addition to FINRA rules, communications pertaining to registered investment companies may also be subject to SEC Rule 482 if used prior to prospectus delivery. Communications concerning public direct participation programs and real estate investment trusts are generally subject to SEC Rule 134 if used prior to prospectus delivery.

MSRB Rule G-21 governs municipal securities and municipal fund securities (529 Plan) communications. In addition, municipal fund securities communications must comply with FINRA Rule 2210 if they refer to any of the following: the performance of the investment company securities or the fund’s underlying investment company families; the investment objectives or strategies of the investment company; the experience or capabilities of the investment adviser or portfolio manager; the potential benefits or risks; and the fees and expenses associated with investing in the investment company.

Please feel free to contact the Advertising Regulation Department to inquire about the details and specific rule applications.
2. What are the categories that make up communications with the public?
FINRA Rule 2210 defines three categories of communications:
  • Retail communication consists of any written (including electronic) communication that is distributed or made available to more than 25 retail investors within any 30 calendar-day period. A retail investor is any person other than an institutional investor, regardless of whether the person has an account with the firm.
  • Correspondence consists of any written (including electronic) communication distributed or made available to 25 or fewer retail investors within any 30 calendar-day period.
  • Institutional communication means any written (including electronic) communication that is distributed or made available only to institutional investors as defined but does not include a firm's internal communications. Institutional investors include banks, savings and loan associations, insurance companies, registered investment companies, registered investment advisors, a person or entity with assets of at least $50 million, government entities, employee benefit plans and qualified plans with at least 100 participants, FINRA member firms and registered persons, and a person acting solely on behalf of an institutional investor.

    If a firm has reason to believe that a communication intended for institutional investors will be forwarded to or made available to a person that is not an institutional investor, the communication must not be treated as an institutional communication. Note that individual participants of employee benefit plans and qualified plans are not considered institutional investors.

Internal Approval

 1. What are the approval requirements for retail communications?
FINRA Rule 2210(b) requires that all retail communications must be approved by an appropriately qualified registered principal before the earlier of its use or filing with FINRA's Advertising Regulation Department.
2. Are there any exceptions to the principal approval requirement for retail communications?
A registered principal does not need to approve any retail communication that has already been filed with FINRA and that FINRA has deemed consistent with applicable standards, provided the communication has not been materially altered.

In addition, prior to use, approval is not required if a firm supervises and reviews the following types of retail communications in the same manner as correspondence pursuant to FINRA Rule 3110(b) and 3110 Supplementary Material .06 through .09:
  • any retail communication that does not make any financial or investment recommendation or otherwise promote a product or service of the member.
  • any retail communication that is posted on an online interactive electronic forum.
  • Any retail communication that is excepted from the definition of “research report” pursuant to FINRA Rule 2241(a)(11(A) and 2242(a)(3)(A).

Filing Requirements

 1. What communications must be filed with FINRA prior to use?
The following retail communications must be filed at least 10 business days prior to first use or publication:
  • retail communications of new member firms used in any electronic or public media for one year beginning on the date the firm's FINRA membership becomes effective, as reflected in the CRD system. For example, this requirement applies to any generally accessible website; newspaper, magazine, telephone directory or other advertisements; television or radio commercials; telephone or audio recordings; video displays, signs or billboards; and motion pictures;
  • retail communications that include rankings or performance comparison information that is not generally published or that is created by the investment company;
  • security futures retail communications; and
  • retail communications concerning options used prior to delivery of the options disclosure document must be filed 10 calendar days prior to use.
2. What communications must be filed with FINRA within 10 business days?
The following retail communications must be filed within 10 business days of use:
  • registered investment company retail communications that promote or recommend a specific registered investment company or family of registered investment companies;
  • retail communications concerning any structured or derivative product registered under the Securities Act;
  • retail communications concerning public direct participation programs;
  • retail communications concerning collateralized mortgage obligations registered under the Securities Act;
  • final filmed versions of television and video communications previously filed in draft form.
See "What and When to File with Advertising Regulation."
3. What communications do not need to be filed with FINRA?
The filing requirements do not apply to institutional communications and correspondence.
4. Must all retail communications be filed with FINRA?
No, some retail communications are excluded from the filing requirements. However, it is important to note that whether a communication is subject to filing or not, firms must ensure that all their communications regarding financial products and services comply with applicable FINRA, SEC, MSRB and SIPC rules.

The following retail communications are excluded from the filing requirements:
  • communications that refer to types of investments solely as a listing of the products or services offered by the firm;
  • retail communications that do not make any financial or investment recommendation or promote a product or service of the firm;
  • prospectuses, preliminary prospectuses, fund profiles, offering circulars, annual and semi-annual reports and similar documents filed with the SEC or any state in compliance with applicable requirements as well as offering documents concerning securities exempt from such filing or registration including free writing prospectuses exempt from filing with the SEC. Note: When reviewing a filed communication, FINRA staff may request, or members may provide the relevant product prospectus;
  • previously-filed retail communications that are used without material change;
  • retail communications based on previously filed templates, with changes limited to updates of more recent statistical or other non-narrative information and non-predictive narrative information that describes market events during the periods covered by the communication or sourced from the investment company’s regulatory documents filed with the SEC;
  • retail communications posted on an online interactive electronic forum;
  • press releases issued by NYSE-listed, closed-end investment companies as required by section 202.06 of the NYSE Listed Company Manual;
  • retail communications subject to SEC Rule 134 and matter of record announcements regarding participation in a private placement (except for those related to public DPPs or registered investment company securities);
  • press releases made available only to the members of the media;
  • any reprint or excerpt of an article issued by a publisher that has not been materially altered in content except to comply with regulatory standards or correct errors and when the member has not commissioned the reprint and is not affiliated with the publisher; and
  • retail communications that do no more than identify the member or offer a specific security at a stated price.
5. Can communications be filed voluntarily?
Yes, firms may voluntarily file communications for review by FINRA. Some reasons for filing voluntarily include:
  • new product launch;
  • use of a new format or medium, such as the firm's first television commercial or the firm's first mobile application;
  • address compliance questions; and
  • rule changes.
6. What information should accompany filings of ghostwritten communications on behalf of third party vendors?
FINRA understands that some firms file ghostwritten communications on behalf of third party vendors for review. In order to facilitate these reviews, firms should disclose to FINRA that the communications were created by a third party vendor which may market them to other firms. Firms are reminded that Regulatory Notice 08-27 provides guidance about the use of ghostwritten communications.

Filing Process and Fees

 1. How do I file communications for review by FINRA?
Firms file most communications for review using the Advertising Regulation Electronic Files (AREF) system. You may also call the Advertising Regulation Department at (240) 386-4500 to learn more about how to file using AREF.
2. How will FINRA respond to communications that firms submit for review?
FINRA provides a written "Review Letter" electronically via the AREF system. The Review Letter provides necessary comments as to the compliance of the submission. In addition, the review letter documents the cost of the review.

Our expedited review service provides for a response within three business days (or other negotiated time period) after the day FINRA receives the material. FINRA will send expedited responses no later than close of business on the third review day. However, response time for regular submissions may vary depending on the volume of filings FINRA receives.
3. What are the filing fees for the submission of communications to FINRA?
As set forth in Section 13, Schedule A of the FINRA By-laws, the following fees apply to each communication submitted:

Regular Filings:
  • $ 125.00 for the first ten pages of material
  • $ 10.00 for each additional page
  • $ 125.00 for the first ten minutes of each video and audio item
  • $ 10.00 for each additional minute of each video and audio item

Expedited Filings:
  • $600.00 for all requests for expedited review for the first ten pages/minutes
  • $ 50.00 per page/minute in excess of the first ten pages/minutes
4. How are filing fees paid?
Each month, your firm's Super Account Administrator will receive an email notification that an Advertising Regulation invoice is available in E-Bill via Firm Gateway. The Advertising Regulation Invoice will provide detailed transaction charges incurred during the billing period along with the total amount due. You may pay your Advertising Regulation fling fees online using E-Bill:
  1. Firm Bank Account (ACH payment)
  2. Credit Card Payment (Visa, MasterCard or American Express)

In addition, there are three other payment methods
  1. FINRA Flex-Funding Account

    The FINRA Flex-Funding Account, formerly known as the CRD/IARD Daily Account, allows firms to view invoices and pay fees formerly paid through the Web CRD system.
  2. Wire Payments

    Funds may be wired for payment of filing fees. To pay Advertising invoices by wire transfers, provide your bank with the following information:

    Bank Name: Bank of America
    Transfer funds to: FINRA
    Wire ABA Number: 026009593
    ACH ABA Number: 054001204
    Beneficiary: FINRA
    Invoice Number
  3. Check Payment

    Checks can be sent by regular mail or by courier/overnight delivery. Checks sent by regular mail must be sent to the P.O. Box address provided below. All checks sent by courier or overnight delivery must be sent to the alternative address provided below, as the P.O. Box address will not accept courier or overnight deliveries. We encourage the use of the P.O. Box address as it facilitates more timely automated processing of your remittance.

    Include the invoice number on the check and send the payment to:

    P.O. Box 418911
    Boston, MA 02241-8911

    (Note: P.O. Box does not accept overnight/courier deliveries)

    For courier/overnight CHECKS only:

    Bank of America Lockbox Services
    FINRA 418911
    2 Morrissey Blvd.
    Dorchester, MA 02125

Please contact the Finance billing department with questions about your Advertising Regulation Invoice at (240) 386-5397.
5. How do I access additional information about my Advertising Regulation fee transactions?
Firms may view online in AREF a real time listing of current and past transactions. If your firm incurred filing fees prior to December 2012, you may also view historical Advertising Regulation Fee Account statements.
6. How do I contact the Department?
Our contact information is:

Advertising Regulation Department
9509 Key West Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850-3389

Telephone: (240) 386-4500
Fax: (240) 386-4568