According to Ex-Texas State Securities Board Denise Voigt Crawford, giving oversight of nearly 12,000 investment advisers to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to cut costs is a bad idea and one for which investors will end up paying the price. FINRA is Wall Street’s self-funded regulator. Already charged with overseeing brokers, it is now pushing to take over the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s role as adviser regulator.
Crawford says that having FINRA oversee the industry’s activities doesn’t make sense when FINRA is the industry. She also points out that since the SRO was established in 2007, it hasn’t been successful in protecting investors, while imposing fines that are usually a fraction of the damages they sustained from securities fraud and other misconduct. Last year, FINRA fined members just $43 million while the SEC imposed over $1 billion in penalties.
Also, according to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission data, investors who received FINRA arbitration awards usually got under half of what they initially sought. In 2010, FINRA ordered that harmed investors get $6 million in restitution, while the SEC ordered that investors recover $1.82 billion. However, through May of this year, FINRA had already ordered that investors who sustained losses get recoup $9.8 million. The SRO believes that it is ideally suited to do the job for a number of reasons, including its technological capabilities and resources and the fact that most advisers are already affiliated with broker-dealers.
FINRA says that it responded to all 3,208 complaints submitted by customers last year, and, when required investigated the allegations. This year, the SRO accelerated its enforcement efforts. Also, compared to 2010, FINRA has upped the fines it levied by 118% and made 463 disciplinary actions between January and May 2011.