Deciphering the Distinctions: FINRA vs. the SEC
The regulation and licensing of broker-dealers is the responsibility of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA is a non-profit organization that operates independently from the government. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is a government entity aiming to safeguard investors and maintain the securities market's credibility. FINRA is overseen by the SEC, which serves as the initial level of appeal for any actions taken by this organization.
Navigating the many financial institutions can be just as overwhelming as choosing the best investment opportunity. In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority are two pivotal regulatory bodies, each with distinct functions and scopes.
FINRA: A Non-Governmental Regulatory Power
In the vast realm of the U.S. securities industry, FINRA is the largest self-regulatory organization (SRO), although it is not part of the government. As a not-for-profit entity, it holds the authority to create and enforce rules based on federal laws for its members, broker-dealers. Playing a crucial role, FINRA conducts essential testing for securities professionals, including the Series 7 exam, which is necessary for selling securities.
With the oversight of the SEC, FINRA's reach extends to more than 4,200 securities firms and 624,000 registered representatives. Boasting over 3,600 employees across the United States, FINRA efficiently lays out the governing principles guiding brokers in their operations.
The SEC: Safeguarding Investors and the Securities Market
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was established after the 1929 stock market crash to safeguard investors and uphold the honesty of formal exchanges and over-the-counter (OTC) markets. The SEC's foundation was laid upon the passage of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which sought to restore public trust and confidence in the stock market during the Great Depression.
The SEC's role as an enforcer of these securities laws has been unwavering, aimed at promoting market stability and safeguarding investors. Comprising 11 regional offices and six divisions, the SEC wields the power to initiate civil actions against violators and collaborate with the Justice Department on criminal cases. Remedial actions include civil money penalties, injunctions, suspension of individuals from officer positions, and imposition of bars or suspensions of employment.
Key Distinctions: SEC and FINRA
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have significant disparities in their scope and functions. The SEC's purview extends across the entire financial and business landscape, encompassing corporate finance, economic analysis, risk assessment, enforcement, investment management, and trading and markets. Its paramount responsibility lies in safeguarding fairness for individual investors.
On the other hand, FINRA's role revolves around supervising almost all U.S. stockbrokers and brokerage firms, ensuring their compliance with regulations, and providing the necessary certifications for operating within their specific markets. Moreover, a substantial proportion of corporate filings, including 10-K and 10-Q reports and other corporate action documents, are directed to the SEC.
It's noteworthy that FINRA operates under the jurisdiction of the SEC, and the SEC serves as the primary appellate authority for actions initiated by FINRA.
The SEC and FINRA are pivotal regulatory bodies in the U.S. financial system. The SEC, a government entity, aims to protect investors and market integrity. On the other hand, FINRA, a non-profit organization, oversees broker-dealers' compliance. Despite their differences, the SEC oversees FINRA and serves as the first level of appeal for its actions, ensuring market stability and investor protection.