SEC and FINRA Continue to Root Out Bad Brokers
On Thursday, July 27, regulators and industry professionals gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss the current regulatory environment, cybersecurity, and other hot topics at the SEC and FINRA’s 2017 National Compliance Outreach Program for Broker-Dealers. The panelists, including SEC Commissioner Michael Piwowar, FINRA President and CEO Robert Cook, and Susan Axelrod, the Executive Vice President of Regulatory Operations, FINRA, particularly emphasized their agencies’ focus on identifying brokers who may pose a high risk to investors, and said that both the SEC and FINRA will be increasing their examination and enforcement activities relating to high-risk and recidivist brokers. Piwowar said that the SEC will be “relentless” in rooting out such individuals through exams and enforcement, and encouraged members of the brokerage industry to alert regulators to potential bad actors and the firms that attract them. Axelrod similarly noted that FINRA will devote significant attention to firms’ hiring and monitoring procedures, including whether firms adequately diligence their candidates and establish appropriate supervisory and compliance controls. She said the agency will look closely at firms hiring brokers with compliance disclosures, or firms that have “clusters” of reps that seem to move together. “There could not be a more important place for us to spend our time and resources,” said Axelrod. FINRA’s focus on recidivist brokers is consistent with its 12th Annual Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter released earlier this year, and indicates that it is a recurring issue that continues to impact the financial sector. It is clear that firms that are making hiring decisions should be careful to consider the issues raised in the program, and all firms must assure that they have and carry through on enhanced compliance procedures for associates with a regulatory history.