FINRA has stepped up its effort to protect consumers from rogue brokers by expanding the scope of their Broker Check service.
Under the proposal being submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission, FINRA would expand the length of time that a former broker’s full record is made publicly available on Broker Check from two to ten years after they have left the industry.
FINRA said Wednesday this will allow investors to access information about former brokers who may now work in other areas of the financial services industry or who have attained other positions of trust.
This follows a move by FINRA last November that made information about final regulatory actions, such as bars, suspensions and fines, against former brokers permanently available to the public.
However, FINRA faced criticism from consumer groups that their actions didn’t go far enough. The Public Investor Arbitration Bar Association submitted a letter to FINRA requesting that the regulator make other information about former broker, such as customer complaints and prior arbitrations, also available. This information was only available for current brokers.
Under the new proposals, FINRA will make other information about former brokers permanently available, including criminal convictions, civil injunctions or findings of involvement in a violation of any investment-related statute or regulation, and arbitration awards or civil judgments based on the individual’s involvement in an alleged sales practice violation.
Scott Shewan, president of the Public Investor Arbitrations Bar Association, said that he is pleased with the new proposal. “A lot of brokers leave the industry but can still become investment advisers,” he said. “We were concerned that people who are researching their investment adviser might not be able to get all the information.”
In addition, FINRA is going to increase the number of customer complaints against current and former brokers that it reports publicly. It will disclose all “historical” complaints dating back to 1999. Historical complaints are usually customer complaints, arbitrations or litigations more than two years old that have not been adjudicated or have been settled for less than $15,000.
Currently, historical complaints are only reported on Broker Check when a broker has three or more currently disclosable regulatory actions, customer complaints, arbitrations, litigations or historical complaints.
Richard Ketchum, FINRA's chairman and chief executive offier, said in a statement that the proposed changes “…will provide valuable information about persons who have left the securities industry, often not of their own accord, but who can still cause great harm to the investing public.”