FINRA

FINRA and SEC Announce Tick Size Pilot Program

 

On October 3, 2016, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”)’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy issued an Investor Alert announcing a new National Market System (NMS) Plan that will implement a Tick Size Pilot Program (the “Pilot”) that will widen the minimum quoting and trading increment – sometimes called the “tick size” – for some small capitalization stocks. The goal of the Pilot is to study the effect of tick size on liquidity and trading of small capitalization stocks.

The Pilot has been implemented pursuant to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act which, among other things, directed the SEC to conduct a study and report to Congress on how decimalization affected the number of initial public offerings, and the liquidity and trading of securities of smaller capitalization companies.

Under the Pilot, the tick size will be widened from a penny ($0.01) to a nickel ($0.05) for specified securities listed on national securities exchanges (“Pilot Securities”). For some Pilot Securities, only quoting will need to occur in $0.05 increments, while for others, both quoting and trading generally will need to occur in increments of a nickel.

The Pilot will include a specified subset of the exchange-listed stocks of companies that have $3 billion or less in market capitalization, an average daily trading volume of one million shares or less and a volume-weighted average price of at least $2.00 for every trading day. There will be a control group of approximately 1,400 securities and three test groups, each with approximately 400 securities selected by a stratified sampling.

The Plot will run for a two-year period that will commence on October 3, 2016.

The data collected from the Pilot will be used by the SEC, national securities exchanges and FINRA to assess whether wider tick sizes enhance the market quality of these stocks for the benefit of issuers and investors—such as less volatility and increased liquidity.

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FINRA Reports on Digital Investment Advice

On March 15, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (commonly referred to as “FINRA”) issued a Report that emphasizes that offerings of digital investment advice requires sound governance and supervision, including effective means of overseeing the suitability of recommendations, conflicts of interest, customer risk profiles and portfolio rebalancing.  The Report also outlines lessons for investors and states that training and education are crucial for financial professionals who use digital investment advice tools.  FINRA is the regulatory authority that is responsible, under the supervision of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for the oversight of broker-dealers.

This Report is the most comprehensive commentary and guidance issued to date by any U.S. regulator regarding digital investment advice.  It merits careful consideration.

Although the rules discussed in the Report apply directly to broker-dealers, rather than investment advisers, the Report addresses the duties applicable to investment management services provided by broker-dealers as well as investment advisers.  Therefore, we expect that the principles and rules set forth in the Report are comparable to those that the SEC will apply to investment advisers that provide digital investment advice.  ReportPress Release.

SEC Approves Consolidated FINRA Rules 2040 (Payments to Unregistered Persons, Including Foreign Finders)

FINRA Rule 2040 governs the payment of transaction-based compensation by member firms to unregistered persons.

Rule 2040(a) – General.

Rule 2040(a) directs persons to look to SEC rules to determine whether the activities in question require registration as a broker-dealer under SEA Section 15(a). The provision also prohibits payments to appropriately registered associated persons unless such payments comply with applicable federal securities laws, FINRA rules, and SEA rules and regulations.

Rule 2040(c) – Foreign Finders.

Rule 2040(c) replaces NASD Rule 1060(b) and NYSE Interpretation 345(a)(i)/03, and provides that a member firm and persons associated with a member firm may pay transaction related compensation to non-registered foreign finders where the finders’ sole involvement is the initial referral to the member firm of non-U.S. customers, and the member firm complies with all the conditions set forth in the rule.

Based solely on its activities in compliance with Rule 2040(c), a foreign finder would not be considered an associated person of the member firm. However, unless otherwise permitted by the federal securities laws or FINRA rules, a person who receives commissions or other transaction-based compensation in connection with securities transactions generally has to be a registered broker-dealer or an appropriately registered associated person of a broker-dealer who is supervised by a broker-dealer. Member firms that engage foreign finders would be required to have reasonable procedures that appropriately address the limited scope of activities permissible under such arrangements.  Regulatory Notice.

 

FINRA and MSRB Release Proposals to Provide Pricing Reference Information for Investors in Fixed Income Markets

On November 17, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) released companion proposals that would require disclosure of pricing reference information on customer confirmations for transactions in fixed income securities. The proposals are substantially similar, but seek input on factors unique to the corporate and municipal bond markets.

Under the two proposals, bond dealers in retail-sized fixed income transactions would be required to disclose on the customer’s confirmation the price of certain same-day principal trades in the same security, as well as the difference between this reference price and the customer’s priceNews Release.

FINRA Proposes Lighter Regulatory Regime For Limited Corporate Financing Brokers

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently issued a Regulatory Notice requesting comment on a Proposed Rule Set for Limited  Corporate Financing Brokers (LCFBs). The comment period expires on April 28, 2014. Please click here for Orrick’s Alert which provides an overview and analysis of the Rule Set and its merits.

FINRA Issues Proposed Rule Set for Limited Corporate Financing Brokers

FINRA issued for comment a Proposed Rule Set for Limited Corporate Financing Brokers (LCFBs).  The proposed rule set would provide a lighter regulatory regime for LCFBs, defined as any broker that solely engages in one or more of the following activities:

    • advising an issuer, including a private fund, concerning its securities offerings or other capital raising activities;
    • advising a company regarding its purchase or sale of a business or assets or regarding its corporate restructuring, including a going-private transaction, divestiture or merger;
    • advising a company regarding its selection of an investment banker;
    • assisting in the preparation of offering materials on behalf of an issuer;
    • providing fairness opinions; and
    • qualifying, identifying or soliciting potential institutional investors.

The rule set would not apply to firms that carry or maintain customer accounts, handle customers’ funds or securities, accept customers’ trading orders or engage in proprietary trading or market-making.  The proposed rule set also is limited in that, among other things, it would not eliminate all exam requirements for principals and representatives that are associated with an LCFB and would not eliminate the net capital requirements. The comment period expires on April 28.  Regulatory Notice.

SunTrust Avoids FINRA Arbitration Concerning The Sale of RMBS

On May 16, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York granted a permanent injunction against hedge fund Turnberry Capital Management LP (Turnberry) in its attempt to compel a FINRA proceeding against SunTrust Banks Inc. (SunTrust).  Judge Buchwald held that because Turnberry did not purchase the RMBS at issue from SunTrust, it was not a customer of the SunTrust unit that underwrote the securities and therefore could not compel SunTrust to arbitrate.  Turnberry had purchased the securities at issue from the brokerage firm Raymond James & Associates, Inc.  Decision.

SEC Rule to Monitor Trading Activity

On July 11, the SEC approved a rule to require the national securities exchanges and FINRA to establish a market-wide consolidated audit trail to enhance regulators’ ability to monitor and analyze trading activity. The rule requires the exchanges and FINRA to jointly submit a plan detailing how they would implement an audit trail to collect and identify every order, cancellation, modification, and trade execution for all exchange-listed equities and equity options across all U.S. markets. The rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. SEC Release.

SEC Approves New FINRA Communications Rules

On June 14, the SEC approved the adoption by FINRA of final rules governing member firms’ communications with the public. The final rules include general contact standards, such as requiring communications to provide a sound basis for evaluating the facts with respect to a security, as well as content standards that apply to specific issues or securities. The final rules will be effective on February 4, 2013. FINRA Notice.   FINRA Rules.