Displaying items by tag: SEC
Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) was approved in 2019, although enforcement has only picked up this year. The law requires brokers to only recommend products to customers that are in their best interest. Brokers also have to be transparent with customers about any potential conflicts of interest and financial benefits to recommendations they make.
For Investment Executive, James Langston covers Monmouth Capital Management’s multiple violations of Reg BI which has led to expulsion from the industry from FINRA. Monmouth is being charged with excessive trading of 110 client accounts between August 2020 and February 2023 by 6 company reps, leading to losses of $3.9 million.
Unfortunately, many of the victims included ‘Gold Star’ families with their investment proceeds coming from death benefits from a family member passing away while serving in the military.
In addition to FINRA taking action against the brokerage, the Department of Justice and SEC charged Caz Craffy, a former US Army financial counselor and Monmouth broker, for defrauding clients through excessive trading and risky investing. He also had a blatant conflict of interest given his dual roles as a broker and financial counselor. Overall, he earned $1.4 million in commision from clients with losses of $3.4 million due to bad trades.
Finsum: FINRA, the SEC, and Department of Justice are pursuing action against Monmouth Capital Management due to violations of REG BI and mismanagement of clients’ funds.
In an article for InvestmentNews, Mark Schoeff Jr. covers the latest developments in the SEC and FINRA’s implementation of Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI). Reg BI was passed in 2019 and implemented in 2020. It requires brokers to only recommend products to customers that are in their best interests, while also informing clients of any potential conflicts of interest and financial benefits to them.
There were some questions about how Reg BI would fit in along with ‘fiduciary duty’ which is another standard that brokers must abide by. Based on recent SEC comments, it seems as if the Reg BI and fiduciary duty are working in tandem to ensure that brokers are placing their clients’ interests above their own. They also stress that although both may be triggered at different times, they are having a similar impact in terms of promoting better behavior from brokers.
In recent months, enforcement of Reg BI and the fiduciary standard have increased. In part, it’s due to greater clarity around the topic and a change in SEC leadership to Chair Gary Gensler and control of the body by Democrats. Until Gensler’s tenure, Republicans see Reg BI as the primary tool for oversight, while Democrats traditionally favor the fiduciary standard.
Finsum: One area of confusion has been the implementation of Reg BI which overlaps with the fiduciary standard for broker-dealers. Recently, the SEC has been saying that both are effective tools that are resulting in better behavior for brokers.
In an article for FinancialPlanning, Dan Shaw covered FINRA expelling SW Financial of Melville, NY for a variety of violations of industry rules. FINRA cited the firm selling private placement IPOs that were unsuitable for some of its customers. This is a violation of Reg BI, where brokers can only sell private shares to wealthy or accredited investors.
As of April 2023, SW Financial had 38 representatives, 4 branches, and had been operating since 2007. SW Financial’s co-owner and CEO Thomas Diamante was suspended from the financial industry for 9 months and fined $50,000. Diamante and SW Financial agreed to the settlement without admitting or denying guilt.
FINRA also said that the firm notified clients that it was receiving a 10% commission on the private placement but not that it would be getting an additional 5% in selling compensation. This is another violation of industry rules, where 10% is the most commission that can be earned.
In total, the firm received about $2 million in compensation that created a ‘conflict of interest’ for the firm and its clients. They were also cited for a failure to conduct proper due diligence.
Finsum: FINRA expelled SW Financial for failing to follow Reg BI and churning customer accounts.
Regulators are looking to get more aggressive about enforcement of Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI) which was passed in 2020. Regulators are particularly focused on sales practices to ensure that fiduciary standards are followed according to a Thomson Reuters article by Richard Satran.
Reg BI mandates that recommendations are offered with impartial advice and explanation of alternatives, including to competing firms. Along with the SEC, Reg BI has also been adopted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
One challenge for firms and regulators is that automated monitoring of transactions to ensure compliance is lacking. According to Parham Nasseri, VP in product and regulatory strategy at compliance software developer InvestorCOM, Inc: “Putting the risk assessments into a surveillance system for Reg BI compliance involves significantly more challenges than the kind of monitoring that systems have done in the past.”
New elements to monitor include conflicts of interest, customer profiles, costs, alternative investments, and other client-specific factors. Along with the technological challenges, firms will have to comply with new exam requirements to comply with new sales practice rules.
Finsum: Reg BI was passed in 2020 but regulators were slow to begin aggressive enforcement given the pandemic. This is changing and firms will be forced to rapidly update sales practices, training, and monitoring.
On Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced its examination priorities for 2023. The agency said it is going to focus on Regulation Best Interest, ESG, the new marketing rule, and a host of other issues. When it comes to investigating Reg BI violations, the SEC will zero in on advisors’ recommendations on complex investments such as derivatives and leveraged ETFs, and high-cost and illiquid products such as annuities and nontraded REITs. According to the division, SEC examiners analyzing Reg BI will look at investment advice and recommendations, disclosures made to clients, the processes firms have in place for making best-interest recommendations, and the kind of factors that are considered in light of an investor’s profile, including their goals and account characteristics. The report stated, “Examinations may also focus on recommendations or advice to certain types of investors, such as senior investors and those saving for retirement, and specific account recommendations, such as retirement account rollovers and 529 plans.” The division will also be focusing on the SEC’s new marketing rule, which reached its compliance date last November after taking effect in May 2021. Examiners will be looking at whether advisors have adopted written rules and procedures that “are reasonably designed” to prevent rule violations. Several experts also believe that SEC examiners will expect firms to apply Reg BI standards to ESG recommendations.
Finsum:The SEC's Examinations Division released its annual Exam Priorities this week, detailing its areas of focus for 2023, which includes Reg BI, ESG, and the new marketing rule.