FINRA Chief Ketchum Says Securities Regulators Worried Whether Investors Betting on High-Yield Corporate Bonds Really Know What They Are Getting Into

At a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fixed income conference earlier this month, FINRA CEO and Chairman Rick Ketchum says securities regulators are questioning whether investors looking at risky investment, including high-yield corporate bonds, fully understand what they are getting into when they delve into the high-yield market. Last year, approximately $200 billion in high-yield debt were sold-a significant increase from the $49 billion that were sold in 2008. Also, during the first six weeks of 2010, about $6.7 billion in junk bond mutual funds were sold.

However, with all this activity in the past year, Ketchum says regulators are asking if registrants are fully familiar with the risks and complexities of the products they are selling and whether clients’ understand the risks involved. For example, he asked, “In a lower interest rate environment, are investors chasing yield, or being led to chase yield?”

As a result of such concerns, FINRA, for its compliance programs, is focusing on the areas of commodity-based exchange-traded funds, municipal securities, disclosure practices, and investor suitability. Ketchum says to expect several formal actions that will tackle “deficient procedures for disclosing material information” and other actions related to “failure to deliver official statements during the primary offering disclosure period” and insufficient “time-of-trade disclosures of material information.”

Ketchum also says that in addition to taking a closer look at municipal bond underwriters to ensure the fairness of new-issue pricing practices and fees, regulators will be checking for any inappropriate efforts by ratings agency officials to favorably affect how municipal securities issues are rated.

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Related Web Resources:

FINRA looks into muni-bond practices, Chicago Breaking Business News/Reuters, March 7, 2011
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