Rules of Fair Practice Explained

Rules of Fair Practice Explained

The Rules of Fair Practice is a code of conduct created by FINRA for broker-dealers in the US. It aims to protect investors and market integrity by mandating loyalty and fair treatment towards customers while prohibiting fraudulent and unethical practices. Noncompliance can lead to severe penalties.

Basics

The Rules of Fair Practice is a code of conduct for broker-dealers in the United States. It mandates loyalty and fair treatment towards customers and was created by the National Association of Securities Dealers. Currently, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) oversees these rules. The primary objective of these rules is to safeguard investors and maintain market integrity. In addition to legal requirements specified by securities laws, the Rules of Fair Practice establish and promote ethical standards for brokers to follow.

A Closer Look at the Rules of Fair Practice

The Rules of Fair Practice demand that broker-dealers treat customers fairly and equitably. These rules encompass various aspects, including fair dealing, a duty of loyalty, an obligation of disclosure, and other responsibilities that brokers and dealers owe to their customers.

Prohibited Conduct

FINRA's Rules of Fair Practice place several restrictions on brokers and dealers, prohibiting the use of seller-obtained information to solicit sales from other clients without explicit approval and unethical practices like churning. Churning involves excessive trading in a client's account to generate higher commissions. The rules also address fraudulent practices, specifically "trading ahead," where a broker executes trades for their firm's account while customer orders are outstanding, and makes trades in a customer's account without their knowledge.

Other prohibited actions include:

  1. Making performance guarantees.
  2. Engaging in short-term mutual fund trades or switching funds without a valid reason.
  3. Personally lending money to or borrowing money from a client.
  4. Recommending complex, high-risk products like derivatives and options without ensuring the customer can handle potential significant losses.
  5. Misrepresenting products, making blanket recommendations, selling dividends, or omitting crucial facts about a security or investment product.

Penalties for Non-Compliance

Failure to comply with the Rules of Fair Practice can result in severe penalties for brokers and dealers. These penalties may include fines, sanctions, practice restrictions, public censure, revocation of FINRA membership, or even a prohibition from associating with other FINRA members. FINRA releases monthly and quarterly lists of disciplinary actions taken against individuals or firms found in violation of its rules.

Conclusion

The Rules of Fair Practice in the US securities industry mandate ethical standards for broker-dealers to safeguard investors and maintain market integrity. The rules prohibit various fraudulent and unethical practices and place restrictions on brokers and dealers. Failure to comply with these rules can result in severe penalties.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD)
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