Help FINRA Prevent Investor Harm
Within FINRA’s Enforcement Department, our highest priority is investor protection. Every day, we act to protect investors from misconduct, stop fraud and prevent losses. And we have been remarkably successful in doing so. As just one marker of our success, consider that in the last five years FINRA has ordered more than $240 million in restitution.
We could not have achieved these results alone. In many cases, we could not have uncovered the full scope of the misconduct or prevented further investor harm without the assistance of investors. Thankfully, every year, hundreds of investors cooperate with FINRA staff in our investigations. Often, this cooperation can be as simple as telling us what happened in their brokerage accounts, and that is all we need to further our investigation. In many cases, a single customer’s decision to speak with FINRA staff was the key to our uncovering a Ponzi scheme or investment fraud and stopping the bad actors before they could harm others.
If you have information that may assist us in an investigation, please consider speaking with FINRA staff. The FAQs below are intended to provide you with further information about FINRA, what we do, and what it means to cooperate with us in our ongoing efforts to protect investors.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is FINRA?
- FINRA is a not-for-profit regulator authorized by Congress to protect America’s investors by making sure the broker-dealer industry operates fairly and honestly. We do this by writing and enforcing rules governing the activities of broker-dealers and brokers, examining firms for compliance with those rules, fostering market transparency, and educating investors—all at no cost to taxpayers.
- FINRA is the first line of defense for investors. With more than 3,500 employees in 16 cities across the country, we are out there working in the communities where investors live.
- FINRA is overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). You can also learn more about FINRA by browsing our website, or by visiting the SEC’s website and searching for FINRA.
2. What does FINRA’s Enforcement Department do?
We investigate complaints against brokerage firms and their employees, and can take disciplinary action against firms and brokers who violate the rules. Sanctions may include fines, suspensions, restitution, or barring a broker from the brokerage industry.
3. I was contacted by a member of FINRA’s staff—how do I know this person actually works for FINRA?
Good question. There are several ways you can confirm someone actually works for FINRA. Perhaps the easiest way is to call our main telephone number (301-590-6500) and ask to be routed to the specific FINRA employee. You can also ask to receive information directly from the FINRA employee, such as a business card, by email or U.S. mail.
4. I was contacted by a member of FINRA’s staff, am I obligated to speak with him or her?
No. Your participation is 100 percent voluntary. Keep in mind, however, that without your cooperation, we may be unable to fully investigate alleged misconduct or pursue disciplinary action against a brokerage firm or its employees.
5. If I reached a settlement with my broker or brokerage firm, does that prevent me from cooperating with FINRA staff?
No. Your settlement and any agreement you have with your broker or brokerage firm does not preclude you from discussing your experiences with FINRA. Because FINRA is a regulator, a registered broker or brokerage firm is prohibited from preventing you from cooperating with FINRA, and confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements or the arbitration discovery process violate FINRA rules.
6. How do I file a complaint with FINRA?
FINRA maintains an Investor Complaint Center on its website. Through the Investor Complaint Center, investors and others can immediately alert us to any potentially fraudulent or suspicious activities by brokerage firms or brokers. You can submit a complaint directly on our website.
7. Can FINRA help me recover losses in my brokerage account?
Maybe. If in the course of an investigation FINRA staff determine that the misconduct of a brokerage firm or broker caused losses in customers’ accounts, we will seek to ensure that those customers are paid restitution as part of any disciplinary action. There can be no guarantee, however, that any action taken by FINRA will result in a payment or return of funds or securities to you. Also, keep in mind that FINRA does not represent you and cannot provide legal advice. Therefore, you may want to consult with an attorney to discuss your options, including potentially filing an arbitration, mediation or a private civil action.
8. Is my financial advisor a broker?
Brokers may describe themselves using various names: financial adviser, financial professional, money manager, etc. To determine if the individual is a broker, look-up him or using FINRA’s BrokerCheck tool. If the individual is identified as “Broker Regulated by FINRA” or “Previously Registered Broker,” then that individual is or was a broker regulated by FINRA. If you’re not sure if your financial adviser is a broker, feel free to give us a call at (301) 590-6500.
9. How long will FINRA’s investigation take?
It depends. While we conduct our investigations as expeditiously as possible, unfortunately, we cannot predict how long any particular investigation will take. FINRA’s investigations may involve collecting documents and information from multiple parties, taking on-the-record testimony, conducting informal interviews, reviewing legal research and negotiating a potential resolution. You should feel free to touch base with your FINRA contact for an update at any time.
Quotes About FINRA Enforcement
Following are quotes from actual customers who assisted FINRA during investigations into misconduct by a broker or firm.
I am very happy there is a watchdog looking out for elderly customers who can easily be taken advantage of by their broker. FINRA’s efforts were very helpful in getting my Aunt back what she lost. Doing so benefited her, as well as her beneficiaries. I really praise FINRA and those who work for them for doing a great job for us and we appreciate that someone is looking out for older customers who may not be in full control of their faculties and who are easily taken advantage of.
– J.S. from California
Thank you so much for all of your hard work. I’m so happy to now be able to move forward and put this ... devastating situation behind me!
– Missy from Maryland
I was very happy to participate in the FINRA disciplinary proceeding. Testifying gave me closure. It felt good to clear the air and say my piece about how I was abused and defrauded by the broker. I hope that my efforts will aid in forewarning other potential investors. I would disabuse another investor of any concern in dealing with FINRA Enforcement.
– J. Laurence from Georgia
I’m very satisfied that I cooperated with FINRA Enforcement and testified at a hearing. As a small investor, I felt it was nice to have somebody who was actually looking out for the small investors also. I would wholeheartedly encourage another investor to participate in a FINRA proceeding.
– James from Texas
Have a problem with your broker, call FINRA. They will try to solve your problem. I know they solved mine. I’m a happy camper.
– R.S. from New York
Thank you…thank you for your hard work. Thank you for making my mother important. Thank you for following through. It helped my soul to see [the registered representative’s signature] at the bottom.
– Linda from Texas
I felt betrayed by my broker and thought my money was gone forever. FINRA was the best advocate for me and got me back money at a time in my life when I really needed it.
– Dawn from Florida
I can’t thank [Enforcement staff] enough for all that you did for me and to ensure that this doesn’t happen again to others. I sincerely appreciate all of your hard work on this case and the willingness to follow up.
– Brian from Arizona
FINRA’s Enforcement team was respectful, cooperative, and easy to work with. More importantly, they helped our organization recover millions in commissions that were fraudulently obtained.