NASD Issues Guidance Regarding Equity Indexed Annuity Sales
Washington, D.C. — Expressing concerns about marketing, supervision, disclosure and investor protection issues, NASD today issued formal guidance to registered firms selling equity indexed annuities (EIAs).
EIAs are complex financial instruments in which the issuer, usually an insurance company, guarantees a stated interest rate and some protection from loss of principal, and provides an opportunity to earn additional interest based on the performance of a securities market index. Some EIAs are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as securities. Many are not, based on a determination that they are insurance products that qualify for exemption under the Securities Act of 1933. The question of whether a particular EIA is an insurance product or a security is complicated, depends upon the particular facts and circumstances concerning the instrument offered or sold, and is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Notice to Members 05-50 does not take a position on whether a particular EIA is a security. Nevertheless, this uncertainty over whether a particular unregistered EIA may be a security complicates a broker-dealer's supervisory responsibilities. If an EIA is an insurance product, then a firm would have to treat sales of the EIA by its brokers as an outside business activity. If the EIA is a security, the firm would have to supervise the sale as a private security transaction. Because of this uncertainty, some firms require their brokers to obtain specific approval to sell unregistered EIAs. Still other firms maintain a list of approved EIAs and prohibit the sale of all others.
NASD's Notice says that firms should:
- Consider maintaining a list of acceptable unregistered EIAs and prohibiting their brokers from selling any other unregistered EIA without the firm's written confirmation that the sale is acceptable.
- Consider whether additional supervisory procedures would help protect the firm's customers. For example, a firm could require that all sales of unregistered EIAs are processed through the firm, meaning the firm must supervise the marketing material, suitability analysis and other sales practices in the same way it supervises the sale of securities through the firm.
- Provide brokers selling any unregistered EIA through the firm with the proper training to ensure they understand the EIA's features and the extent to which the EIA meets the needs of a particular customer.
The Notice also reminds firms that under any circumstances, NASD suitability rules apply to any recommendation that a customer liquidate or surrender a registered security for the purpose of purchasing an unregistered EIA.
NASD has previously issued an Investor Alert, Equity Indexed Annuities - A Complex Choice, to assist investors considering purchasing an EIA.
Investors can obtain more information about, and the disciplinary record of, any NASD-registered broker or brokerage firm by using NASD's BrokerCheck. NASD makes BrokerCheck available at no charge to the public. In 2004, members of the public used this service to conduct more than 3.8 million searches for existing brokers or firms and requested almost 190,000 reports in cases where disclosable information existed on a broker or firm. Investors can link directly to BrokerCheck at www.nasdbrokercheck.com. Investors can also access this service by calling (800) 289-9999.
NASD is the leading private-sector provider of financial regulatory services, dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services. NASD touches virtually every aspect of the securities business - from registering and educating all industry participants, to examining securities firms, enforcing both NASD rules and the federal securities laws, and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and member firms. For more information, please visit our Web site at www.nasd.com.
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