Category: FINRA Compliance

What is FINRA Compliance: FINRA Compliance…FINRA CUSIP… What is with all the FINRA rules, the proposed CAB rules are designed to comply with Section 15A of the Exchange Act related to FINRA rules and, in particular, that such rules be designed to prevent fraudulent and manipulative acts and practices, to promote just and equitable principals of trade, and in general to protect investors and the public interest…

Aug222017

FINRA Issues New Guidance On Communications With The Public, Including Social Media

In April 2017 FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 17-18 providing additional guidance on the use of social media and digital communications by member firms and persons associated with member firms. The guidance specifically relates to FINRA Rule 2210 – Communications with the Public, and supplements previously issued guidance in Regulatory Notices 10-06 and 11-39, published in 2011. The new guidance is in the form of FAQ’s and concentrates on the areas of recordkeeping, third-party posts and hyperlinks to third-party sites.

I have previously written about the SEC’s guidance on social media use by companies, including as a method for communications with investors and the public. The most recent blog is HERE and includes hyperlinks to prior blogs, including a three-part summary of the SEC Guidance on Social Media and Websites for Company Announcements and Communications.

Brief Overview of Rule 2210

FINRA Rule 2210 governs communications by FINRA member firms and associated persons, including: (i) institutional communications – including any written or

Jul052017

The Payment Of Finders’ Fees- An Ongoing Discussion

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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Introduction

As a recurring topic, I discuss exemptions to the broker-dealer registration requirements for entities and individuals that assist companies in fundraising and related services. I have previously discussed the no-action-letter-based exemption for M&A brokers, the exemptions for websites restricted to accredited investors and for crowdfunding portals as part of the JOBS Act and the statutory exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements found in Securities Exchange Act Rule 3a4-1, including for officers, directors and key employees of an issuer. I have also previously published a blog on the American Bar Association’s recommendations for the codification of an exemption from the broker-dealer registration requirements for private placement finders. I’ve included links to each of these prior articles in the conclusion to this blog.

A related topic with a parallel analysis is the use of finders for investors and investor groups, an activity which has become prevalent in today’s marketplace. In that

Jun062017

FINRA Proposes Amendments To The Corporate Financing Rules

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On April 11, 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) released three regulatory notices requesting comment on rules related to corporate financing and capital formation. In particular, the regulatory notices propose changes to Rule 5110, which regulates underwriting compensation and prohibits unfair arrangements in connection with the public offerings of securities; Rules 2241 and 2242, which regulate equity and debt research analysts and research reports; and Rule 2310, which relates to public offerings of direct participation programs and unlisted REIT’s.

The proposed changes come as part of the FINRA360 initiative announced several months ago. Under the 360 initiative, FINRA has committed to a complete self-evaluation and improvement. As part of FINRA360, the regulator has requested public comment on the effectiveness and efficiency of its rules, operations and administrative processes governing broker-dealer activities related to the capital-raising process and their impact on capital formation.

Regulatory Notice 17-14 – Request for Comment on Rules Impacting

May302017

FINRA Proposes New Registration And Examination Rules

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 8, 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) filed a proposed rule change with the SEC to adopt amended registration rules and restructure the entry-level qualification examination for registered representatives. The new rules would also eliminate certain examination categories. FINRA is planning to implement the changes in two phases, with full implementation completed during the first half of 2017.

Securities Industry Essentials Exam

As part of the proposed amendments, FINRA introduced a new beginning-level examination called the Security Industry Essentials (SIE), which can be taken by individuals without sponsorship by a broker-dealer. The SIE would be a general-knowledge examination including fundamentals such as basic product knowledge, structure and functioning of the securities industry markets, regulatory agencies and their functions, and regulated and prohibited practices.

Under the proposed new rules, anyone desiring to work in the securities industry for a member firm would need to take the SIE. The SIE would also

May022017

The Senate Banking Committee Passes Several Pro-Business Bills

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On March 9, 2017, the Senate Banking Committee approved the first set of bills to go through the committee under the new administration.  The five bills were cleared as one package and are aimed at making it easier for companies to grow and raise capital. The bills are bipartisan and could be some of the first to pass through Congress under the new regime. Only two Democrats opposed the bills: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is consistently pushing for greater investor protections regardless of the impact on businesses, and Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed.

Interestingly, in 2016, most of these pro-business bills were passed by the House and never made it through the Senate. For a brief outline of the numerous House bills passed in 2016, see my blog HERE. Each of the current bills had already been presented in prior years, either as stand-alone bills or packaged with other provisions, but

Mar072017

SEC Announces Examination Priorities For 2017

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On January 12, 2017, the SEC announced its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) priorities for 2017. The OCIE examines and reviews a wide variety of financial institutions, including investment advisors, investment companies, broker-dealers, transfer agents, clearing agencies and national securities exchanges. The OCIE examination goals are to promote compliance, prevent fraud, identify risk and inform policy.

The priorities this year have a primary focus on (i) protecting retail investors, especially those saving for retirement; (ii) assessing market-wide risks; and (iii) new forms of technology, including automated investments advice.

The SEC shares its annual examination priorities as a heads-up and to encourage industry participants to conduct independent reviews and make efforts for increased compliance, prior to an SEC examination, investigation or potential enforcement proceeding. Moreover, the SEC chooses its priority list in conjunction with discussions with all divisions of the SEC and other market regulators and identifies what it believes are the

Sep062016

FinCEN Updates Due Diligence Rules

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On May 11, 2016, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued new final rules under the Bank Secrecy Act requiring financing institutions, including brokerage firms, to adopt additional anti-money laundering (AML) procedures that include specific due diligence and ongoing monitoring requirements related to customer risk profiles and customer information.  In addition, the new rules require financial institutions to collect and verify information about beneficial owners and control person of legal entity customers.

The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) specifically requires brokerage firms to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act.  FinCEN provides minimum rules.  Brokerage firms are also required to comply with AML rules established by FINRA, including FINRA Rule 3310.  The purpose of the AML rules is to help detect and report suspicious activity including the predicate offenses to money laundering and terrorist financing, such as securities fraud and market manipulation. FINRA also provides a template to assist small firms in

Jan262016

FINRA Proposes New Category Of Broker-Dealer For “Capital Acquisition Brokers”

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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In December, 2015, FINRA proposed rules for a whole new category of broker-dealer, called “Capital Acquisition Brokers” (“CABs”), which limit their business to corporate financing transactions. In February 2014 FINRA sought comment on the proposal, which at the time referred to a CAB as a limited corporate financing broker (LCFB). Following many comments that the LCFB rules did not have a significant impact on the regulatory burden for full member firms, the new rules modify the original LCFB proposal in more than just name. The new rules will take effect upon approval by the SEC and are currently open to public comments.

A CAB will generally be a broker-dealer that engages in M&A transactions, raising funds through private placements and evaluating strategic alternatives and that collects transaction based compensation for such activities. A CAB will not handle customer funds or securities, manage customer accounts or engage in market making or proprietary trading.

As

Nov242015

SEC Advisory Committee Recommendations Related To Finders

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On September 23, 2015, the SEC Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies (the “Advisory Committee”) met and finalized its recommendation to the SEC regarding the regulation of finders and other intermediaries in small business capital formation transactions. This is a topic I have written about often, including a recent comprehensive blog which can be read HERE.

By way of reminder, the Committee was organized by the SEC to provide advice on SEC rules, regulations and policies regarding “its mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair, orderly and efficient markets and facilitating capital formation” as related to “(i) capital raising by emerging privately held small businesses and publicly traded companies with less than $250 million in public market capitalization; (ii) trading in the securities of such businesses and companies; and (iii) public reporting and corporate governance requirements to which such businesses and companies are subject.”

The Advisory Committee made four recommendations related

Mar102015

SEC Supports FINRA’s Rule 6490 Authority Over Corporate Actions

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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In two recent administrative decisions, the SEC has upheld FINRA’s broad authority under Rule 6490 to approve and effectuate corporate actions by public companies trading on the OTC Markets.  One of FINRA’s mandates is to protect investors and maintain fair and orderly markets and like broker-dealers, it acts as a gatekeeper in the small-cap industry.  FINRA exercises its powers though the direct regulation of its member broker-dealer firms, but also through its Office of Fraud Detection and Market Intelligence, which monitors the trading activity and press releases of issues in the marketplace and conducts related investigations.  FINRA works with the SEC as a front line in the detection, investigation and assistance with the prosecution of issuers. 

Recently, through its power under Rule 6490, as more fully explained below, FINRA has, with the support of the SEC, expanded its impact on the small-cap marketplace by conducting in-depth reviews of issuers in conjunction with the