Throughout the history of the financial services industry, broker-dealers and investment advisory firms have typically required harmed investors to dispute matters through arbitration rather than the court system. Arbitration disputes between broker-dealers and former clients are generally kept confidential and decided by a purportedly impartial three-person panel; the panels are hand-selected by the parties from a randomly generated list of arbitrators employed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA utilizes a computer algorithm, the Neutral List Selection System (NLSS), which creates a list of potential arbitrators to review the matter based on the type of case. However, a recent court decision overturning a 2019 FINRA arbitration award in favor of Wells Fargo has flooded the financial services industry with widespread allegations of fraud and misconduct. In addition to vacating the arbitration award, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Belinda Edward criticized FINRA’s arbitration selection procedures as well as Wells Fargo for their role in altering the process. Wells Fargo is set to appeal the decision while FINRA now faces immense regulatory pressure to address its failure to facilitate a fair arbitration selection process.
For several years, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has sought to increase oversight of brokers who have a history of misconduct as well as the firms that hire these brokers. In an effort to disincentivize the recruitment of high-risk brokers, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently approved FINRA’s proposed Rule 4111, which subjects “restricted firms” to additional capital obligations and hiring restrictions. Specifically, FINRA Rule 4111 targets brokerage firms that have exceeded thresholds of risk-related or investor-harming disclosures compared to similarly sized peers. The new rule, which will go into effect in 2022, is designed to provide FINRA with greater authority to proactively address the risks posed to investors by rogue brokerage firms.
Failing video game company, Gamestop has broken the internet this week, but not for anything that they intended to do. Their stock has been the center of controversy after a group of internet investors banded together to outsmart hedge funds at their own game. By causing a hedge fund to short squeeze their investment in Gamestop offerings, they have brought to light the possible need for regulation in the market.