Articles Tagged with FINRA Rule 2210

In February 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. (“FINRA”) published a Regulatory Notice asking for comment on proposed changes to FINRA Rule 2210, which governs communications with the public.  Under current Rule 2210, broker-dealers are not allowed to make communications that “predict or project performance, imply that past performance will recur or make any exaggerated or unwarranted claim, opinion or forecast.”  According to FINRA, the purpose of this rule is to prevent retail investors from relying on performance projections relating to individual investments, which tend to be deceptive.

However, FINRA has acknowledged that performance projections that are not based on how well an individual investment performed can be helpful to investors who are contemplating an investment strategy.  Furthermore, investment advisers are permitted to use performance projections in choosing an investment strategy for their clients, provided that the projections do not violate the Investment Advisers Act of 1940’s antifraud rules.  Therefore, FINRA proposed the amendments to Rule 2210 in order to allow broker-dealers to use projections in a way that benefits clients and to make the rules governing performance projections by broker-dealers and investment advisers more uniform. Continue reading ›

FINRA has recently released Regulatory Notice 15-16 which contains proposed amendments to the rules currently governing public communications they will make reporting by FINRA member firms regarding public communications less onerous due to more lenient filing requirements. If the proposed amendments are adopted, the rules proposed to be amended are FINRA Rules 2210, 2214 and 2213.

FINRA Rule 2210 relates to communications of a firm with the public. Under the current regime new firms are required, at least 10 days prior to making any retail communications, to file such communications with FINRA for the first year of the firm’s membership. Under the proposed amendment, new firms would only be required to file their websites and any material changes thereto within 10 days of first use of the website for the first year of the firm’s membership. This proposed change was prompted by FINRA’s recognition that the primary form of retail communications is now done through the firm’s websites and that the 10-day waiting period served no significant investor protection function.
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As the use of social media becomes more prevalent and popular, businesses and financial institutions have begun to utilize the new methods of communication that social media can provide. Many businesses already maintain blogs or interactive accounts like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram as a method of marketing and interacting with clients or prospective customers. However, social media is a relatively new and constantly changing technology that can create unique and unforeseen risks to a businesses image and regulatory compliance policies. These risks are particularly acute for registered investment advisers.

In the broker-dealer world, FINRA has already adopted rules and issued regulatory notices designed to protect investors from false or misleading claims and representations and guide member firms on how to appropriately monitor their social media participation. Although not strictly applicable to pure RIAs, these rules should be viewed as best practices:

  • FINRA Rule 2210 and NASD Rule 3010 govern the supervision of a firm’s social media communications;
  • FINRA Rule 2111 requires that social media communications, if recommending a security, must be considered suitable for the targeted investors; and
  • Record keeping of all social media communications is required under FINRA Rule 4510.

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In a previous blog, we discussed the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) proposed Rule 2210 regarding social media. FINRA responded to comments by amending the proposed rule, and filing it with the SEC for approval. The amended rule was designed to respond to concerns about whether certain types of communications should be considered correspondence or public appearances.

In the rule as originally proposed, interactive social media communications would be classified as public appearances such as television interviews, and would have to be filed with regulators. As a result of comments to the proposal, FINRA amended the rule to exclude messages on online interactive forums from a post-use filing requirement.

FINRA explains that the reasoning behind this change is due to the belief that participation in online forums occur in real-time, that it is not practical to require pre-use approval of such postings by a principal, and that these types of communications should be classified as retail communications. According to FINRA, “retail communication would include any written (including electronic) communication that is distributed or made available to more than 25 retail investors within any 30 calendar-day period. ‘Retail investor would include any person other than an institutional investor, regardless of whether the person has an account with the member.'” This means that the retail communication category would instead be supervised by broker-dealers in the same manner as correspondence.
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More and more brokers and investment advisers are becoming familiar with the applicable social media regulations, including those described in FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06, to put into place procedures that permit the wide use of social media for marketing purposes. These social media sites are proving an invaluable way to create and build client relationships, referral networks and other marketing opportunities. While this guidance was welcomed by firms, much of FINRA’s guidance is proving incomplete, as broker-dealers struggle to find ways, for example, to implement procedures to comply with FINRA’s record-keeping and other requirements.

Subject firms wishing to employ greater social media need to make sure that they follow FINRA’s requirements and those of the Exchange Act, the Investment Adviser’s Act and applicable state law. The most important factor is, of course, full, accurate, fair, complete and honest disclosures particularly on those pages that are permanent as opposed to transient messages. As FINRA made clear, all social media records, even Tweets and Facebook wall postings, must be maintained by the firm as part of their supervision. Additionally, a firm needs to set a written social media policy and follow the policy thoroughly.

From a compliance standpoint, for entities subject to FINRA rules, it is important to realize that blog posts, websites, banner ads, bulletin boards and static content on social media sites are considered advertisements under Rule 2210 and thus subject to the detailed requirements of that rule, including principal review or approval prior to posting for publication. This includes profile, background and wall information.
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