Ombudsman Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does Ombudsman mean?
Ombudsman is a Swedish term that means representative. The International Ombuds Association describes an ombudsman as “one who assists individuals and groups in the resolution of conflicts or concerns.”
2. What is the Office of the Ombudsman’s mission?
Our mission is to provide a forum for investors, brokerage firms, registered investment professionals, and others who interact with FINRA to voice concerns of unfair practices or treatment. As an independent, neutral, and confidential source of assistance, the Office of the Ombudsman addresses complaints—whether anonymous or not—about operations, enforcement, or other activities of FINRA and its employees. We also answer questions and help people navigate FINRA.
3. What does the Office of the Ombudsman not do?
We are only able to assist with matters that are within the scope of FINRA’s jurisdiction. FINRA oversees the U.S. brokerage industry.
We do not handle customer complaints about a brokerage firm, their employees, or registered investment professionals. Please submit those complaints through FINRA's file a complaint page. In addition, visit the file a tip page if you have information about potentially fraudulent, illegal or unethical activity relating to financial services.
We also do not:
- Replace existing FINRA processes or programs. Where established procedures currently exist regarding the application of rules, policies, procedures, or interpretation, we will direct the complaint to the appropriate department and monitor the outcome, if necessary;
- participate in formal investigations or play a role in a formal resolution process;
- overturn decisions of existing dispute resolution, hearing, or appellate bodies;
- serve in any role that compromises our neutrality; and
- make binding decisions or mandate policies.
4. What type of problems does the Office of the Ombudsman handle?
We handle any concern or complaint about FINRA operations, enforcement, or other FINRA activities. If you are not sure if your concern fits within these categories, or are unclear as to whether it is a matter for the Office of the Ombudsman, call us to find out.
5. How can the Office of the Ombudsman help?
FINRA's Office of the Ombudsman is available to help you in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:
- listening to complaints, concerns, problems, and issues;
- helping you to explore and evaluate options;
- clarifying certain decisions, policies, and practices;
- creating access to information, if appropriate, and helping to open channels of communication;
- acting as an alternative channel of communication to management and FINRA staff;
- helping to ensure that established policies and practices are functioning properly and equitably;
- referring to helpful resources;
- assisting in surfacing issues so they can be addressed in formal processes;
- taking objective action to resolve matters that fall outside the established forums and procedures;
- identifying new issues and opportunities for systemic change at FINRA; and
- bringing systemic issues to FINRA's attention for resolution.
6. Who may contact the Office of the Ombudsman?
Anyone with a complaint or concern regarding FINRA may contact us. This includes investors, registered investment professionals, FINRA employees, and any business or individual that interacts with FINRA.
7. Do I need to disclose my name if I want to discuss a complaint or concern with the Office of the Ombudsman?
No. You have the option of submitting your concern or complaint anonymously.
8. If I complain to the Office of the Ombudsman, who will find out about it?
Generally, if you seek confidentiality, your discussion with us will be confidential and we will not divulge information unless you give us permission to do so. We may have to share information if there is an imminent risk of serious harm, or if you have raised an issue that legally requires FINRA to take action. In such situations we would take reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality of your identity. You may also choose to voice your complaint or concern anonymously.
9. Does the Office of the Ombudsman review all inquiries?
We review and assess all communications we receive. We take all concerns seriously, evaluate the situations, and take action when appropriate.
10. Does the Office of the Ombudsman have authority to solve every problem?
No, that is not the purpose of the Office of the Ombudsman. FINRA already has many programs and procedures in place for solving problems, resolving disputes, handling complaints, and addressing concerns. The Office of the Ombudsman will help you identify options, make sure they are available to you and help you to use them most effectively. We will consider steps necessary to ensure that existing forums are operating properly and appropriately, and are equitably carried out by staff. While we do not have the authority to overturn decisions made in these forums, we will make recommendations to management regarding any problems we find.
11. Will the Office of the Ombudsman act as an advocate on my behalf?
The Office of the Ombudsman does not represent or act as an advocate for any person in a dispute with FINRA, and does not take sides on any issues brought to its attention. We promote fair processes, and consider the interest and concerns of all parties to a situation.
12. What type of training does the Office of the Ombudsman participate in?
Most members of our team have experience in various departments within FINRA and in the brokerage industry. Additionally, we attend training with organizations such as the International Ombuds Association, Coalition of Federal Ombudsman, and United States Ombudsman Association.
13. Who can assist me with a concern about a nursing home or other long-term care facility?
Long-term care Ombudsmen are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, and assisted living facilities. The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center can assist you with locating assistance regarding these facilities. The Administration for Community Living also has helpful resources.