Mergers, Acquisitions and Business Transfers
Firms involved in mergers, acquisitions, asset transfers (which may include but is not limited to registered representatives and customer accounts) and other operational changes must attend to various regulatory and investor-protection obligations.
FINRA encourages firms, and in some cases requires them, to notify their FINRA coordinator when planning these changes. By discussing these proposals well in advance of implementing them, firms may find that it helps them address operational problems. Please see Rule 1017 (a)(3) for more information.
The following changes and transactions will prompt required firm actions, which are described below.
- Mergers and/or acquisitions of other broker-dealers.
- Customers changing firms on their own initiative.
- Registered representatives with an established customer base who bring customer assets along with them when they move from one firm to another.
- Transfers of brokers and/or customers as part of an acquisition of a portion of a business, such as the purchase of a trading desk from another firm.
Please note that this Web page highlights common regulatory concerns. It does not explore all the potential issues that may come up during a merger, acquisition or business transfer.
Firms should review the following areas when planning material business changes, among others.
- Continuing Membership Application (CMA) and Membership Agreement Changes (MAC) - You should assess how your firm’s merger- and transfer-related changes will affect its FINRA membership status. NASD Rule 1017a requires firms to file a CMA when they seek to materially expand their operations or activities, and a MAC when they seek to modify or remove restrictions imposed in a membership agreement. Learn more about CMA requirements in FINRA’s Continuing Membership Guide.
- Policies and Procedures - When planning organizational or operational changes, firms should review each entity’s policies and procedures. Merging firms should consider a top-to-bottom comparison. A more limited review may be appropriate when a firm acquires a portion of a business from another firm. The revised and/or combined policies and procedures should be comprehensive and fully reflect the new business model.
- Governance - Firms should establish a governance structure for the business composition and organization of the new or modified entity. This should provide a clear roadmap for the review, assessment, approval and escalation of the new firm’s business activities.
- Annual Compliance Certification - A firm’s compliance personnel should play an integral role in developing the overall structure of the post-transition business entity. (Learn more in FINRA Rule 3130.) Interaction with compliance should be sufficiently robust at all stages of the integration process.
- Supervision - Firms must ensure that they have established clear lines of supervision for the post-transition business entity. Properly licensed, supervisory principals must have access to systems and information sufficient to perform their duties.
- Customer Account Transfer - During business transitions, both the releasing (carrying) firm and the receiving firm must coordinate plans to expedite customer account transfers, as required in NASD Rule 11870. They also must treat customers fairly and protect their interests throughout the transition.
- Books and Records Retention - FINRA encourages firms to fully catalogue and review processes for retaining and retrieving required books and records. Be prepared to maintain legacy database systems to run in parallel with new or combined systems, if necessary, to ensure records remain accessible.
- Communications With the Public - FINRA urges merging firms to develop interim guidelines for referrals or other joint communications during the integration process. These guidelines may address such issues as sharing information with various business partners in the merging entities (e.g., research analysts, investment bankers, trading and sales people).
- Back Office and Operations -You should assess how merger- or transfer-related changes will affect your firm’s financial and operational status. This includes anticipating the effect of a merger or acquisition on net capital with the use of pro forma and reserve capital calculations.
- Systems and Technology -Firms should consider creating a detailed systems migration plan, which can help facilitate a seamless transition to the final infrastructure in a merger or acquisition. FINRA encourages firms to notify us when planning a significant electronic data processing system conversion, including conversions that are part of a business transfer.