Category: FINRA Compliance

FINRA Compliance: As with all 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…

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

Oct282014

FINRA Seeks to Eliminate the OTCBB and Impose Regulations on the OTC Markets

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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On October 7, 2014, the SEC published a release instituting proceedings to determine whether to approve FINRA’s request to delete the rules related to, and the operations of, the OTC Bulletin Board quotation service.  On June 27, 2014, FINRA quietly filed a proposed rule change with the SEC seeking to adopt rules relating to the quotation requirements for OTC equity services and to delete the rules relating to the OTCBB and thus cease its operations.  Although the rule filing was published in the Federal Register, it garnered no attention in the small cap marketplace.  Only one comment letter, from OTC Market Group, Inc. (“OTC Markets”) (i.e., the entity that owns and operates the inter-dealer quotation system known by its OTC Pink, OTCQB and OTCQX quotation tiers) was submitted in response to the filing.

The OTCBB has become increasingly irrelevant in the OTC marketplace for years.  In October 2010, I wrote a blog titled

Sep302014

The ECOS Matter; When Is A Reverse Split Effective?

ABA Journal’s 10th Annual Blawg 100

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In what was presumably an unintended consequence, the application of an SEC- approved FINRA regulation has resulted in a conflict between state and federal corporate law for a small publicly traded company.

On September 16, 2014, Ecolocap Solutions, Inc. (“ECOS”) filed a Form 8-K in which it disclosed that FINRA had refused to process its 1-for-2,000 reverse split.  At the time of the FINRA refusal, ECOS had already received board and shareholder approval and had filed the necessary amended articles with the State of Nevada, legally effectuating the reverse split in accordance with state law.  Moreover, ECOS is subject to the reporting requirements under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (“Exchange Act”), and had filed a preliminary and then definitive 14C information statement with the SEC, reporting the shareholder approval of the split.

The ECOS 8-K attached a copy of the FINRA denial letter, which can be viewed HERE