Displaying items by tag: fiduciary rule

Wednesday, 13 March 2024 11:48

No More Changes to Reg BI: Gensler

Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), spoke recently at the Investment Adviser Association Compliance Conference. In a Q&A session with reporters, he remarked that there were no current plans to modify or update Reg BI. Instead, the agency’s focus is on ‘examining for and enforcing against’ Reg BI.


In later remarks, he addressed its approach towards predictive data analytics. He believes this is a gray area, and the SEC wants to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest within newer technology that utilize behavioral prompts and nudges. Of course, this topic is even more germane given the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) powered applications. 


Gensler wants to ensure that there are no loopholes to bypass the fiduciary rule. Many in the industry contend that this rule is a backdoor expansion of Reg BI and that current regulations were sufficient. 


Previously, Gensler had spoken that the new technology enables practices to micro-target consumers with products and content. While this can help advisors grow their business, he believes this communications channel needs to be regulated as well to ensure that these business interests are not placed above the clients’. 

Finsum: At a recent conference, SEC Chair Gary Gensler pushed back that there was a backdoor expansion of Reg BI due to the predictive analytics rule. The rule mandates that predictive technology that communicates with clients must also follow the fiduciary rule.


Published in Wealth Management
Friday, 02 February 2024 07:26

Regulators Stepping Up Reg BI Enforcement

FINRA and SEC regulators have increased enforcement and oversight of Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI). Recent focus has been on increasing compliance within the sales process. There have been several FINRA actions to punish firms for improper supervision to ensure the fiduciary standard is being followed.


The pace of these actions and enforcement has gradually picked up since the moratorium on enforcement ended. Further, regulators have also made public comments emphasizing the need for more aggressive action. 


In 2023, there were FINRA enforcements following only 8 in 2022. The agency has also started to impose personal fines for sales violations or requiring advisors to pay back a portion of losses. Prior, regulatory agencies would see compensation and damages from the firm rather than individuals. This change in strategy is a reflection that they are trying to deter violations of the fiduciary standard at the individual and firm level.


Looking ahead, comments from SEC and FINRA officials reveal that this is only the beginning. According to FINRA’s acting head of enforcement, Chris Kelly, ‘more and more’ cases involving all four pillars of Reg BI which includes disclosure, care, conflict of interest, and compliance are likely to be filed. 

Finsum: FINRA and SEC regulators are increasing Reg BI enforcement. They are targeting firms for improper sales supervision and punishing brokers for violations.


Published in Wealth Management
Friday, 29 September 2023 13:09

Brokerages Still Struggling With Reg BI Compliance

A little more than 3 years ago, the SEC strengthened fiduciary rules with the passage of Reg BI, and this was also adopted by FINRA. According to a recent report from state regulators, brokerages are still struggling to comply with these new regulations.

In essence, Reg BI ensures that any recommendations made by a broker have to be offered impartially along with an explanation of any alternatives. The purpose of these rules is to ensure that there is no conflict between a broker and the client without necessarily imposing the full fiduciary obligation of RIAs. 

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) reviewed broker compliance efforts and found middling results especially given that 3 years have passed. Additionally, the SEC and FINRA have stepped up enforcement efforts this year.  According to the group, there remains room for improvement especially as many brokers remain uncertain about the rule and its application to products like annuities, leveraged products, private placements, or other alternative investment products. 

Many firms are creating their own protocols regarding compliance and spending more time on understanding their clients’ risk tolerance and goals before providing recommendations. However, the group also found that many brokerages are too lax especially when it comes to providing disclosures and alternative recommendations. 

FinSum: The North American Securities Administrators Association conducted an audit of brokerage to see how Reg BI compliance efforts are going. 


Published in Wealth Management
Tuesday, 16 May 2023 08:06

FINRA Boots SW Financial, Cites Reg BI

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. 


Published in Wealth Management

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.

Published in Wealth Management
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