A Trio of FINRA Notices Focused on Capital Formation Issues

On April 12, 2017, FINRA released three regulatory notices for comment that propose amendments to various FINRA rules affecting capital formation. In connection with its release of the notices, FINRA President and CEO Robert Cook noted FINRA’s continuing commitment to assessing its regulations and their role in facilitating capital formation. This initiative is part of the comprehensive self-evaluation and improvement initiative that FINRA announced several months ago called the FINRA 360 initiative. The initiative, FINRA’s recent request for comment on its engagement efforts, and these regulatory notices certainly reflect a new tone. In all three notices, as discussed further below, FINRA specifically requests that commenters address the economic impacts of the rules, including costs and benefits, and the specific effects on the capital formation process.

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Additional contributors to this post:

Hillel T. Cohnhcohn@mofo.com

Lloyd S. Harmetzlharmetz@mofo.com

Caveat Compliance: Can Firms Rely on Advice Received from Compliance Consultants?

Broker-dealers (BDs) and investment advisers (IAs) regularly hire compliance consultants to obtain advice about regulatory requirements. A recent Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC or Commission) enforcement proceeding against an investment adviser (IA) calls into question whether firms may rely on compliance consultants as a defense to violating the law.  However, if firms take proper steps, BDs and IAs may still be able to retain consultants and defend themselves based on the advice they receive. Otherwise, “caveat emptor” (as the saying goes) or “caveat compliance” (as the SEC seems to be saying).

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Additional contributors to this post:

Brian L. Rubinbrianrubin@eversheds-sutherland.com

Rebekah R. Runyonrebekahrunyon@eversheds-sutherland.com

The Final Rule: Delayed But (Perhaps) Not Denied

On April 4, 2017, the Department of Labor released its final rule postponing the applicability date of its new “investment advice” fiduciary definition and related exemptions. This extension, which was published in the April 7 Federal Register, generally delayed the applicability dates under the rule for 60 days, until June 9, 2017, and also modified limited but important conditions in the rule for 2017.

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Additional contributor to this post:

W. Mark Smithmarksmith@eversheds-sutherland.com

New Protections for Senior Investors

On March 30, 2017, FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 17-11 (Financial Exploitation of Seniors), announcing the SEC’s approval of amendments to the FINRA rulebook related to the financial exploitation of senior investors.  More specifically, as adopted, the amendments to FINRA Rule 4512 would require broker-dealers to make reasonable efforts to obtain the name and contact information for a “trusted contact person” for a customer’s account.  In addition, new FINRA Rule 2165 would permit (but not require) broker-dealers to place temporary holds on disbursements of funds or securities from the accounts of certain senior investors, as well as other investors with diminished capacity, when there is a reasonable belief of financial exploitation.  The FINRA notice announces an effective date of February 5, 2018, and clarifies, among other things, that the temporary hold on disbursements should not apply to securities transactions.

SEC Adopts T+2 Settlement Cycle for Securities Transactions

On March 22, 2017, as previously anticipated by the market, the SEC adopted an amendment to Rule 15c6-1 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to shorten the standard settlement cycle for most broker-dealer transactions from three business days after the trade date (T+3) to two business days (T+2).  The SEC proposed the amendment on September 28, 2016, in connection with a variety of related changes to the SEC’s rules and the rules of self-regulatory organizations such as FINRA to facilitate the U.S.’s move to a T+2 settlement cycle.

According to the SEC, Rule 15c6-1, as amended, is designed to enhance efficiency, reduce risk, and ensure a coordinated and expeditious transition by market participants to the shortened standard settlement cycle.

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Additional contributor to this post:

Matthew J. Kutnermkutner@mofo.com