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PIABA Warning: FINRA Withholds Critical “Red Flag” Information in Broker Background Check Disclosures to Investors

‘Investors who rely on the BrokerCheck disclosure system maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to check out the background of their current or potential stockbrokers are not getting access to crucial information about financial professionals even though such information is available from many state securities agencies operating under robust public record laws, according to a new analysis from the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA). PIABA is warning that the extent of omitted “red flag” background information is so serious that unwitting investors relying on BrokerCheck may very well select brokers with whom they would not do business if they had access to the more complete picture available to FINRA but now being hidden. The PIABA report underscores in stark terms the high stakes for investors: “The information that FINRA omits in its reports is objectively important to investors seeking to make an informed decision about selecting a broker. The result is that consumers who use the BrokerCheck system to conduct their due diligence may make an incorrect assumption that all relevant information has been disclosed and may opt to rely on a broker they would have avoided had they known more information.” Available here, the PIABA analysis find that FINRA has elected to provide limited information about brokers even in the face of calls for fuller disclosure from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), state securities regulators, consumer groups, and other organizations. The PIABA analysis makes clear that the only way for the BrokerCheck system to function as intended to educate and protect investors is to require that FINRA disclosures be made consistent with the more complete reporting provided by state securities agencies.”

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