The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) issued two regulatory notices in August 2020 with warnings of imposter websites (Regulatory Notice 20-30 and Regulatory Notice 20-27). In Regulatory Notice 20-30, FINRA warned that it has received notifications from several member firms that malicious actors are using registered representatives’ names and other information to create imposter websites that appear to be the representatives’ personal sites. FINRA also reported that the malicious actors were calling and directing potential customers to use the imposter websites and, in turn, may be responding through imposter-based email addresses that could contain malware or imbedded phishing links. Regulatory Notice 20-30, raises concerns that imposters may be using these sites to collect personal information from the potential customers to commit financial fraud.
Continue Reading FINRA Repeats Warnings of Imposter Websites

With the influx of virtual business meetings resulting from the pandemic, FINRA recently issued an FAQ on how non-in-person events should be treated pursuant to entertainment, gifts, and noncash compensation rules. Specifically, FINRA addressed whether it is allowable for an associated person to host virtual business entertainment events or video conferencing with the employees of an institutional customer or third-party broker-dealer and provide food and beverage to be consumed during the event. The guidance is limited to interactions with representatives of institutional customers.
Continue Reading FINRA Issues Guidance on Virtual Business Entertainment

FINRA and the CFTC each issued recent advisories on commodity-linked exchange traded products. Directed at retail investors and broker-dealers, the advisories each highlighted certain issues unique to commodity-linked exchange traded products that were recently demonstrated by market reactions to fluctuating oil prices caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The advisories provided guidance on relevant considerations in

The Investor Protection Bureau of the New York Attorney General’s Office (“IPB”) recently proposed a series of changes to its rules regulating broker-dealers. The proposal would require “finders” in New York to register as broker-dealers and pass broker-dealer examinations. In doing so, IPB would codify its regulation of finders in a manner similar to several other states.
Continue Reading New York State Proposes to Regulate “Finders” as Broker-Dealers

On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued an order that required equity exchanges and FINRA to submit a new National Market System (“NMS”) plan with a modernized governance structure for the production of public consolidated equity market data and the dissemination of trade and quote data. As explained in its order, the SEC hopes that a consolidation of equity market data systems will help to eliminate duplicative systems and reduce lags in data dissemination as well as data inaccuracies.
Continue Reading SEC Orders Equity Exchanges and FINRA to Modernize Consolidated Market Data

On May 4, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) approved MEMX LLC (“MEMX”), standing for “Members Exchange,” as a new national securities exchange under Section 6 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. According to the MEMX website, the investors in MEMX include global financial institutions, comprised of online retail broker-dealers, global banks and financial services firms, and global market makers. MEMX will operate a fully automated electronic order book, and will not operate a physical trading floor. Similar to other national securities exchanges, only broker-dealer members of MEMX and entities that enter into market access arrangements with members will have access to the MEMX system. As a national securities exchange, MEMX will be a self-regulatory organization and will be responsible for oversight of its members.

Continue Reading SEC Approves MEMX as a new National Securities Exchange

On April 28, 2020, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint against a company and its chief executive officer (“CEO”) for alleged fraud in connection with the company’s stated response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In its complaint, the SEC alleged that the company issued two press releases containing false or misleading statements in which the company purported to be negotiating the sale of N95 masks and then made claims that it was in possession of N95 masks. After regulators inquired about these claims, the SEC alleged that the company issued a third press release a month later that it did not have any N95 masks on hand. The complaint asserts that the company’s stock trading volume and stock price increased significantly as a result of the initial press releases.
Continue Reading SEC Alleges COVID-19 Related Fraud by a Company after Suspending Trading

The SEC has the authority under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to suspend trading in a given security if it deems it necessary for the public’s interest. It has been exercising its authority to suspend trading with increased frequency for potentially false and misleading statements made in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. The following

The SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) issued a risk alert to explain the focus of its upcoming examinations of broker-dealers when gauging their compliance with Regulation Best Interest (Reg BI). In particular, OCIE will focus on reviewing broker-dealers’ policies and procedures relating to Reg BI. 

OCIE’s Reg BI examinations are scheduled to