Regulatory Notice 10-51

Sales Practice Obligations for Commodity Futures-Linked Securities

Securities that offer exposure to commodities have become increasingly popular and accessible to retail investors in recent years. Given the practical difficulties that can be associated with investing directly in many commodities, commodity-linked securities often use futures contracts to track an underlying commodity or commodity index. Commodity futures linked securities can be an effective tool for gaining exposure to an asset class that in some cases can be difficult for retail investors to access. However, firms should be aware that, in some cases, the performance of the commodity futures-linked security can deviate significantly from the performance of the referenced commodity, especially over longer periods. The deviation could be either positive or negative, depending on market conditions and the product’s investment strategy. This deviation can produce unexpected results for investors who are not familiar with futures markets, or who mistakenly believe that commodity futures-linked securities are designed to track commodity spot prices.

FINRA is issuing this Notice to remind firms that offer commodity futures-linked securities that they must ensure that communications with the public about these securities are fair and balanced, that recommendations to customers are suitable, and that their registered representatives adequately understand and are able to inform their customers about these securities before they recommend them. To meet these obligations, firms must train registered personnel about the characteristics, risks, and rewards of each product before they allow registered persons to sell that product to investors. Firms must also have adequate written supervisory procedures and supervisory controls that are reasonably designed to ensure that sales of commodity futures-linked securities comply with the federal securities laws and applicable FINRA rules.

Questions concerning this Notice should be directed to:

  • Laura Gansler, Associate Vice President, Office of Emerging Regulatory Issues, at 202-728-8275; or
  • Richard Vagnoni, Senior Economist, Office of Economic Analysis, at 202-728-6934