In a letter sent to the Financial Industry Regulator Authority (FINRA) last November, the Securities Industry and Financial Market Association (SIFMA) wants FINRA to give harsher punishments to brokers who have failed to pay back promissory notes to firms. It specifically sought to prevent brokers from being able to plead poverty to escape arbitration payment orders. The purpose of the notes is to provide cash for recruiting and retention incentives. They are typically designed as forgivable loans as long as the broker stays at the firm for a specified amount of time. If the brokers choose to leave early, then they are required to pay back the note.
As a result of not paying the promissory note back, firms have gotten more aggressive in filing arbitration claims for repayment, and in most cases the firm wins. In 2011, there were 778 promissory note cases filed which is a decrease from 2010 during which 1,152 cases were filed. If a broker does not pay the promissory award, FINRA files an action against him/her that could lead to suspension. Once a monetary award has been issued in a FINRA arbitration proceeding, the broker has 30 days to pay the award. If the broker can show an inability to pay back the note; however, he/she will not be suspended and can continue to work for another firm.
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