What is FINRA Arbitration? Disputes, Process, and Guide

This is your definitive guide to FINRA arbitration in 2023. In this article you will learn: how disputes are handles under FINRA arbitration, the FINRA arbitration process, and what to expect if you are involved in a FINRA arbitration case. We will also cover the most important information that you will need to know about FINRA arbitration in 2023 so that you can be prepared if you find yourself involved in a case. FINRA Overview FINRA, the acronym for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, governs disputes between investors and brokers and disputes between brokers. In this article, we solely concentrate on how an individual private investor files a claim to recover losses against their broker or financial advisor.  We will explain how FINRA fits into the securities regulatory scheme. We will discuss how FINRA provides services designed to resolve disputes in a cost-effective manner that is quicker than a traditional court and give some insight into how FINRA‘s arbitration procedure works. Next, we will examine the pros and cons of FINRA arbitration. Lastly, we will discuss how a highly experienced lawyer who has represented numerous clients successfully at FINRA arbitration can help you recover your damages from your broker or financial advisor.  What Is FINRA? FINRA is not a government agency. Unlike the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), FINRA is an organization established by Congress to oversee the brokerage industry. FINRA is a self-governing body and operates independently from the U.S. government. By contrast, the SEC more broadly regulates the buying and selling of securities on various exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and the American Stock Exchange. The SEC approves initial public offerings and secondary offerings and can halt trading to avoid a crash if necessary.  Additionally, the SEC has law enforcement powers. Along with the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys Office, the SEC can investigate acts surrounding the buying, selling, and issuing of securities. The U.S. Attorney can pursue charges for crimes relating to the stock market, such as insider trading and wire fraud. While the SEC has the authority to file civil lawsuits against any person or organization violating the securities statutes and the SEC’s rules. How Is FINRA Different from the SEC? FINRA has a different function than the SEC altogether. FINRA is a regulatory agency designed to promote public confidence in the brokerage industry and the financial markets as well. People will not invest if they believe they have trusted unscrupulous financial advisors to protect their economic interests. FINRA ensures that its members comply with the ethical rules of their profession, similar to a state bar for attorneys or a board of registration for medical professionals.  Congress granted FINRA authorization to investigate complaints investors make concerning misconduct, fraud, or potentially criminal behavior. As a result, FINRA can discipline its members if the agency determines that a broker violated its professional code. FINRA can assess fines, place restrictions on a broker’s authority, or expel the member from its ranks for an egregious violation. Anyone who suspects their broker or their financial advisor of wrongdoing should file a complaint with FINRA’s complaint center for investors.  You should be aware that FINRA’s rules do not restrict you from filing a complaint seeking an investigation into wrongdoing and pursuing monetary damages in arbitration.  FINRA Alternative Dispute Resolution FINRA provides a forum for investors to resolve their disputes with their brokers or financial advisors. In fact, FINRA boasts the largest securities dispute resolution forum in the US. FINRA offers arbitration services, as well as mediation services, as a means to avoid costly and inefficient litigation in courts. FINRA provides a fair, effective, and efficient forum to resolve broker disputes. FINRA’s goal is to settle disputes quickly and efficiently without the standard procedural and discovery requirements that bog down cases filed in courts.  How Does Arbitration Work with FINRA? Arbitration is an alternative to filing a case in civil court. Arbitration tends to be less formal and is designed to process claims more quickly than filing a lawsuit in court.  FINRA’s arbitration process involves resolving monetary disputes among brokers and investors. FINRA’s arbitrators can issue monetary judgments and have the authority to order a broker to deliver securities to you if that is a just resolution of the case.  An arbitration hearing is similar to a trial in court. The parties admit evidence and argue their side to a neutral person or panel of arbitrators who will decide the case. The arbitrator’s decision, called an award, is the judgment of the case and is final. You should know that you do not have the right to appeal the award to another arbitrator. You may have an opportunity to pursue an appeal in court under limited circumstances. However, you cannot elect to arbitrate your case and then file a complaint in court seeking a trial on the issues decided by the arbitrator.  FINRA’s arbitration forum operates under the rules set forth by the SEC. FINRA ensures that the platform serves as it should and facilitates ending disputes. No member of FINRA participates in the arbitration. FINRA merely provides the forum and enforces the rules. Arbitrators decide the cases.  The arbitrators typically need about 16 months to issue an award. This is a lot quicker than court, where cases could take years to get to trial. The parties also have the opportunity to resolve the dispute by negotiating among themselves without going to arbitration.  FINRA’s Arbitration Forum Protects Investor Confidentiality Arbitration with FINRA is often confidential. The parties can share information about their case if they choose. However, they do not have to do so. By contrast, court filings are public records. Any person could view the court file and learn all the private information contained in the pleadings. The pleadings that the parties must file in FINRA arbitration cases are not public records. Notwithstanding, FINRA posts arbitration awards for anyone to see in its online database. The underlying pleadings remain confidential even though FINRA publishes the award online. Posting the...

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FINRA Rule 3270: Outside Business Activities

When you engage a registered investment adviser to manage your money, you want to make sure that nothing will interfere with your securities professional’s duty to you. FINRA Rule 3270, referred to outside business activities, gives transparency to potential conflicts of interest your investment adviser may have.  FINRA Rule 3270 requires your investment advisor to disclose their outside business activities. The purpose of FINRA 3270 is to keep FINRA member firms accountable to you, the client. If you are concerned that your securities professional might have violated certain disclosure rules, a knowledgeable FINRA arbitration lawyer can help you understand your options. What is FINRA Rule 3270? FINRA Rule 3270 prohibits broker-dealers from engaging in any outside business activities that involve the sale of securities unless they have first provided written notice to their employing firm. “Outside business activity” refers to a registered person’s involvement in offering, purchasing, or selling securities outside of their broker-dealer’s regular business activities. Need Legal Help? Let’s talk. or, give us a ring at 561-338-0037. FINRA Rule 3270 requires the disclosure of outside business activities. This FINRA regulation is a vital measure for protecting investors and ensuring that their advisor is prioritizing their interests. What is Considered a FINRA “Outside Business Activity”? FINRA outside business activities are broadly defined. FINRA Rule 3270 states that they include any paid work performed outside of a securities professional’s employment. This includes: This rule only requires an investment advisor to notify his or her employer of FINRA outside business activities. It does not require the investment advisor to do anything beyond provide a notification. Instead, the FINRA member firm makes a determination about what outside business activities are acceptable to the firm and its clients. The firm decides how or if outside business activities should continue to be carried out. Common Examples of FINRA Outside Business Activities Common examples of outside business activities include: Your investment advisor needs to report any of these activities to their employer under FINRA 3270.  The examples above are not exhaustive. An investment adviser also needs to report their wedding photography business or snorkel tour side-gig to their employer under the rules. FINRA rules about outside business activities apply to any paid work. Passive Investments Are Not Outside Business Activities While FINRA Rule 3270 casts a wide net, it allows investment advisers to make passive personal investments. Investing in diversified index funds or private securities transactions is not an outside business activity. Investment advisers may also put their personal funds into a blind trust. Blind trusts do not allow people to direct how their money is invested. Other FINRA rules require some disclosure about personal investments to ensure that your broker is being as transparent as possible about their potential conflicts of interest. FINRA Rule 3280 requires disclosure of private securities transactions. Your securities professional must strictly comply with this rule and its requirements. Your brokerage firm should ensure the investment adviser’s compliance with FINRA Rule 3280.  Responsibility of Brokerage Firms to Clients Once an investment advisor makes an outside business activities disclosure, the FINRA member firm must take important action. Each firm typically has its own form for reporting and its own protocol for review.  How Do Firms Determine Whether an Outside Business Activity Is Acceptable? Once a firm receives a disclosure, it needs to decide whether the outside business activities are acceptable. The FINRA member firm reviews all facts surrounding the disclosure. Then the firm answers two key questions to protect investors like you. First, Rule 3270 asks a FINRA member firm to consider all the circumstances surrounding the outside business activities. The review includes assessing the type of outside business, reviewing the time spent on the business, and confirming the type or amount of compensation received. The firm must decide whether outside business activities will interfere with the securities professional’s responsibilities to their employer and/or the firm’s clients. Second, Rule 3270 asks a FINRA member firm to think about whether outside business activities will be viewed by customers or the public as part of the member’s business. This review assesses whether a client would confuse the investment adviser’s outside business activities with their securities business.  How Do Firms Address Outside Business Activities That Conflict with an Advisor’s Duties? If the firm determines that the investment adviser’s outside business activities interfere with their responsibilities to the firm or its clients, then the firm should limit or prohibit the activity. FINRA Rule 3270 also requires firms to maintain a record of compliance. It is the firm’s responsibility to keep records of all outside business activities disclosures and compliance reviews. Brokerage firms are responsible to their clients to ensure that they are providing appropriate and conflict-free service in managing client assets. FINRA member firms must represent that their investment advisers are not engaging in outside business activities that compromise client interests. If you believe that your brokerage firm has failed to hold investment advisers accountable to FINRA Rule 3270 or otherwise adhere to conflict of interest rules, the firm may be liable for investor losses. Now may be the time to file a FINRA complaint against your advisor or broker. Have You Been Harmed by Your Investment Advisor’s Outside Business Activities? If you are an investor with concerns that your investment professional has failed to disclose important information to you, please call The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Our FINRA arbitration lawyers have successfully represented individuals harmed by broker and investment advisor negligence or misconduct for over 40 years. Cases involving violations of FINRA rules are complex. Attorney Pearce has the expertise and experience to help you navigate any kind of securities or investment dispute. Contact our team today to discuss an evaluation of your potential case. Our team has recovered over $160 million for our clients, and we want to help you too.

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Announcing 2022 Winner – Robert Wayne Pearce Investor Fraud Awareness Scholarship

As promised, today we are announcing the 2022 winner of the Robert Wayne Pearce Investor Fraud Awareness Scholarship. Over the course of the year, we received applications from over 75 students from 44 schools around the country who all wrote quality essays about the Robinhood App and whether it was a good tool for novice investors or just a game to take advantage of them.  The winner of the $2,500 scholarship is Alecia Ann Des Lauries, a student at Alexandria Technical & Community College located in Alexandria, Minnesota, who wrote: The Robinhood Investment app is a darling amongst Millennials and Generation Z. The dashboard is sleek and easy to understand. It’s a “simple” and “easy” platform that “democratizes investing for all.” Anyone can buy stocks, EFTs, and cryptocurrency with just a press of the button. There are no commission fees, and you can start investing with just $1! What’s not to like? Turns out, a lot. Its slick marketing and user-friendliness disguise an ugly truth: the app is one of the worst ways to begin investing. The whole platform is a thinly veiled game that exploits first-time investors, which makes up more than half of its userbase (Segal, 2021).  Robinhood promotes freebies aggressively. New customers get free stock. You can earn more free stock if you refer friends to the app. There are frequent “giveaway sweepstakes” for cryptocurrencies and stocks. Social media influencers entice new users through unique free stock offers. Once you sign up, the app will even help you pick your first stock. Then, you can sign up for their debit card, the “Cash Card”, where you can earn bonuses, but for reinvesting in stock and crypto only on their platform.  Once you’re in, you’re pushed hard to invest. There are “Popular” and “Trending” stock lists. Widgets recommend what individual stocks and crypto to buy or sell. Celebratory messages and animations trigger when you buy, sell, or hit certain milestones. The bright, cartoonish art design is fun, but disarming. It’s easy to forget that you’re trading with real money and you’re undertaking real risks.  That’s intentional. It’s how Robinhood generates revenue. About 70% (Curry, 2022) of its revenue comes from payment for order flow, which means it receives payments upon routing trades to market makers. The more trades that occur, the more revenue Robinhood receives. That’s how the company collected $331 million in Q1 2021 (Geron, 2021). Most tellingly, the platform itself is simplistic. There are no mutual funds or fixed income for more conservative investors. There are no IRAs or 401(k)s—a huge disservice to the 55% of Millennials (Loudenback, 2019) and 90% of Generation Z (Koterbski, 2022) who don’t have retirement accounts. Robinhood doesn’t offer forex or futures for more experienced investors, let alone stock or ETF screeners for research-intensive investing. The most rudimentary research tools are behind a paywall, and even then, it’s insufficient compared to competing brokers. More seasoned investors quickly flock to other brokers that offer more robust tools. That’s because those investors aren’t Robinhood’s target market. And the platform wants to remain that way. The educational resources, while improving, are still laughably shallow. There is almost nothing on risk management; most of the “risk” you’ll see is on their disclaimers. Robinhood pays lip service to help build “wealth for a new generation”, while equipping its users with inferior tools and subpar education. It’s no wonder many columnists criticized Robinhood for being too much like a casino. And like the saying goes, the house always wins! We thank all the other applicants for their efforts and announce that the next scholarship to be awarded December 15, 2023, will be given to the student who writes the most thoughtful essay about the Risks of Investing in the Cryptocurrency Market.

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