The Important Role Customers Play in Assisting FINRA in Investigations
Every day at FINRA, we protect investors from misconduct, stop fraud and provide restitution to harmed customers. And we are successful—in part because customers and other members of the public provide information and crucial evidence during the course of an investigation.
When contacted by FINRA, please speak with us—with your help, we may be able to pursue disciplinary action against a firm or broker; and if you have a concern about a broker or brokerage firm, please reach out to us directly.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is FINRA?
FINRA is a not-for-profit regulator overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and authorized by Congress to protect America’s investors by ensuring 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.
2. What does FINRA’s Enforcement Department do?
FINRA Enforcement investigates potential securities violations and, when appropriate, brings formal disciplinary actions against firms and their associated persons. Sanctions include restitution, fines, suspensions, and in cases of serious misconduct, bars from the brokerage industry. Learn more.
3. I was contacted by a member of FINRA’s staff—how do I know this person actually works for FINRA?
The easiest way to confirm a person's employment with FINRA is to call FINRA's main telephone number (301-590-6500) and ask to be routed to the specific FINRA employee.
4. I was contacted by a member of FINRA’s staff—am I obligated to speak with him or her?
Your participation is 100 percent voluntary; however, 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 prevent you from discussing your experience 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?
Visit FINRA's Investor Complaint Center to file a complaint electronically or by mail to alert us of any potentially fraudulent or suspicious activities by brokerage firms or brokers. You can also call (240) 386-HELP (4357).
7. Can FINRA help me recover losses in my brokerage account?
If FINRA determines, during the course of an investigation, that the misconduct of a brokerage firm or broker caused losses in customers’ accounts, FINRA will seek restitution as part of the disciplinary action. Separately, customers may consider consulting with an attorney to discuss available options, including pursuing arbitration, mediation or a private civil action.
8. FINRA just ordered my broker or brokerage firm to pay restitution to harmed customers—how can I find out if I will get restitution?
If you are entitled to receive restitution from your broker or brokerage firm pursuant to a FINRA disciplinary action, your broker or brokerage firm will pay you directly, typically within 120 days. During that period, you can contact your broker or brokerage firm and ask whether you are among the customers who will be receiving restitution. You also can call FINRA at (301) 590-6500 and ask to speak with an Enforcement attorney assigned to the matter.
9. Is my financial advisor a broker?
Brokers might describe themselves using various names: financial advisor, financial adviser, financial professional, money manager, etc. To determine if the individual is a FINRA-registered broker, use 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 FINRA-registered broker. If you need assistance, call FINRA at (301) 590-6500.
10. How long will FINRA’s investigation take?
While we conduct our investigations as expeditiously as possible, we cannot predict how long any particular investigation will take. That depends on the facts and circumstances of any given case. FINRA investigations vary in complexity and 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.
See What Others Have to Say About Their Experience With FINRA Enforcement
Following are quotes from actual customers who assisted FINRA during investigations into misconduct by a broker or firm.
When you’ve lost part of your retirement and you don’t know where to go, this is the place to go. People should not be scared of FINRA. Without your help, I wouldn’t be where I’m at—I would be on a dead-end street.
– Edward S. from California
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
Having FINRA’s experienced professional supporting team made all the difference. They gave me all the confidence I needed to be an effective witness ... Their legal expertise and professionalism went above and beyond my expectations. I am very thankful for their legal advice, time, and efforts.
– Excerpt from a Letter from a Senior Investor
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.