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Stock Market Losses?: FINRA’s BrokerCheck Might Have Helped

October 31st, 2008 by Madelaine Eppenstein

For the many investors who have suffered catastrophic stock market losses this year, few would dispute that the failure of self-regulation by the financial services industry has played a significant role in precipitating the global economic crisis. Ironically, in the midst of this chaos the primary U.S. self regulator, FINRA, has been broadcasting advertisements for its BrokerCheck Web page on radio in the New York metropolitan area as a “service” to aggrieved investors.

But that transparent PR move is based on the presumption that investors who want to look up the employment history and disciplinary record of their brokers not only have access to or own a computer but are aware that the site offers the information – and or have also tuned in to the radio for the 30-60 second spot. Regardless of whether FINRA is advertising BrokerCheck in other radio markets nationally, it’s obvious that many investors, particularly seniors and retired investors who do not use computers, will not get the message.

To ensure that the public has the ability to check out a broker’s registration and history, the tough, investor-friendly state regulators of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) have for many years maintained the full CRD “rap sheet” on registered brokers which can be obtained by the public. To be truly supportive of the yet to be achieved ideal of investor protection in this area, FINRA itself should require the firms to supply the background information about a broker before they enroll their customers.

Posted in Securities Arbitration & Litigation

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