Articles Tagged with broker-dealers

On May 17, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC’s”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) published a Risk Alert pertaining to cybersecurity.  According to the Risk Alert, an extensive ransomware attack called WannaCry, WCry, or Wanna Decryptor “rapidly affected numerous organizations across over one hundred countries.”  In light of the WannaCry attack, OCIE is urging registered investment advisers, broker-dealers, and investment companies, to address cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

According to the Risk Alert and an alert published by the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Cert Alert TA17-132A, the hacker or hacking group who instigated the WannaCry attack obtained access to enterprise servers by way of exploiting a Windows Server Message Block vulnerability. WannaCry infects computers using software that encrypts data on a server using a .WCRY file-name extension, which prevents the rightful owner from accessing the data. Once infected, the ransomware software demands payment from the business in return for access to the business’ data. Microsoft released a patch to this vulnerability in March of 2017, but many users of Microsoft operating systems do not diligently update their software. Continue reading

The Department of Labor (DOL) recently released a final rule delaying by 60 days the implementation date of the DOL Fiduciary Rule from April 10th to June 9th. This is in response to President Trump’s February memorandum asking the DOL to review the impact of the DOL Fiduciary Rule and assess whether it negatively effects the ability of retirement investors to gain access to retirement information and financial advice. The DOL Fiduciary Rule seeks to assign fiduciary duties to all advisers to retirement investors by expanding the definition of fiduciary investment advice under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code (Code) to cover a wider array of advice relationships.

Under the DOL’s final delay rule, the revised definition of fiduciary investment advice and certain provisions of the Best Interest Contract (BIC) exemption will be implemented on June 9th. At that time, advisers acting as fiduciaries and engaging in transactions covered by the exemption must comply with the impartial conduct standards of the BIC exemption. The impartial conduct standards include providing investment advice in the best interest of the retirement investor, receiving only reasonable compensation, and not making any materially misleading statements. Continue reading

The Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued two new sets of FAQ guidance regarding the revised definition of fiduciary investment advice under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (Code), as well as the new prohibited transaction exemptions (PTEs). The first set of guidance is directed to retirement investors, not advisers, and answers basic questions investors may have regarding the new rule and how it will work. The second set of guidance is aimed at financial service providers and focuses mainly on the revised definition of fiduciary investment advice and the situations in which fiduciary duties will or will not attach under the new rule.

While the first set of FAQ guidance is not necessarily aimed at financial service providers, it did provide a few useful insights that I will briefly discuss here. The DOL stated that the new rule does not require advisers to indiscriminately move clients from commission-based accounts to fee-based accounts, and instead requires advisers to act in the client’s best interest when deciding what type of account to recommend. Regarding the best interest requirement, the DOL clarified that providing investment advice in a client’s best interest does not mean that advisers have a duty to find the best possible investment product for clients out of all the investments available in the marketplace. Continue reading

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently denied a motion brought by the National Association for Fixed Annuities (NAFA) to enjoin the implementation of the new Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule. This is the first court decision on a legal challenge to the rule. There are currently several other lawsuits against the DOL seeking to overrule the new DOL fiduciary rule that await decision.

NAFA is an insurance trade association that represents insurance companies, independent marketing organizations, and individual insurance agents. NAFA has been very vocal in its opposition to the new DOL fiduciary rule, stating that the new rule will have “catastrophic consequences for the fixed indexed annuities industry” and that meeting the April 2017 deadline is “almost an impossibility for the industry.” Along with other opponents to the rule, NAFA believes the rule will lead to higher compliance costs and will greatly increase litigation risk.

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On October 17, 2016, FINRA published Regulatory Notice 16-37 setting an effective date for implementation of its new Capital Acquisition Broker (“CAB”) rules (“CAB Rules”).  The CAB Rules, which codify the creation and regulation of a new FINRA Membership category designed for broker/dealers that restrict their activities to certain designated corporate finance transactions, are discussed in greater detail in a recent Parker MacIntyre blog post (see “SEC Approves FINRA’s Capital Acquisition Broker Rules (“CAB Rules”)”).  Continue reading

A new limited broker/dealer classification framework at the federal level has been created as the result of a recent SEC Order approving a FINRA rule proposal seeking to address the longstanding industry desire for augmented exemptive relief and/or limited registration classifications for broker/dealers that restrict their activities to certain designated corporate finance transactions. The new federal broker/dealer registration category known as Capital Acquisition Brokers (“CABs”), which some observers have dubbed a “lite” form of broker/dealer registration, is the latest development in this area of securities regulation, and follows a recent string of federal and state no-action letters providing exemptive relief to so-called Mergers and Acquisitions (“M&A”) Brokers. However, enthusiasm for the new CAB Rules should be tempered somewhat in that: (1) the CAB Rules do not provide exemptive relief—i.e., they do not allow firms to avoid registration but instead set up a form of registration that is meant to be somewhat less onerous; (2) CAB registration still requires that CAB firms adhere to many of the same strictures required of full broker/dealers; and (3) opting to be regulated as a CAB may require reassessment as time goes on to the extent that a firm’s business activities change. While formally approved by the SEC, FINRA’s CAB Rules are not as yet effective. FINRA will publish the effective date in an upcoming Regulatory Notice. The full set of CAB Rules approved by the SEC may be found online at http://www.finra.org/sites/default/files/SR-FINRA-2015-054-amendment-2.pdf.

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Last month the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) sanctioned a registered investment adviser and its managing member for violating the Investment Adviser’s Act of 1940 (“Adviser’s Act”) and for acting as an unregistered broker-dealer in connection with the services the adviser provided to a private fund that it managed and the fees charged for those services.

Blackstreet Capital Management, LLC (“Blackstreet”) serves as the manager of two private equity funds (the “Funds”).  In the Funds’ governing documents, Blackstreet disclosed to the Funds’ investors that it would charge fees for brokerage services rendered in connection with acquiring portfolio companies.  Blackstreet did, in fact, perform brokerage services including soliciting transactions, identifying buyers and sellers, negotiating and structuring transactions, arranging for financing, and executing transactions. In exchange for those services it received over $1.8 million.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) released a Regulatory Notice in May clarifying its new suitability rule, Rule 2111. The rule, which was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in November 2010, will be implemented on July 9, 2012. The Notice is intended to answer industry questions and provide guidance on the new rule.

According to FINRA, the new rule imposes the same obligations as the predecessor rule and related case law. It is intended to clarify and codify three main suitability obligations.

The first obligation is reasonable-basis suitability, which has two components: a broker must (1) perform reasonable diligence to understand the nature of the recommended security or investment strategy involving a security or securities, as well as the potential risks and rewards, and (2) determine whether the recommendation is suitable for at least some investors based on that understanding.

The second obligation is customer-specific suitability, in which the broker must have a reasonable basis to believe that a recommendation of a security or investment strategy is suitable for the particular customer based on the customer’s investment profile.
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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) Rule 5123 on June 7, 2012. The text of the final rule can be found here. The rule is creates some obligations for broker-dealers when they are engaged in selling private placements of securities. Due to a number of concerns, the SEC did not approve the rule until FINRA made a number of changes to the originally proposed rule. The final rule, which includes three amendments, was approved on an accelerated basis. The rule does not apply to all private placements. Sales to institutional accounts, qualified purchasers, investment companies, and other classes of purchasers are excluded.

The original proposal would have required broker-dealers involved in a private placement transaction to disclose to each of the investors prior to the sale the anticipated use of the proceeds from the offerings and the amount and type of offering expenses and offering compensation. If the disclosure documents did not include this information, the broker-dealer would have had to create a document for the investor containing the information. The proposal also required each broker-dealer to file the document with FINRA within fifteen days of the date of the first sale. If there were any amendments to the documents, then the amendments would also have to be filed with FINRA within fifteen days.
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