In December 2009, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) proposed changes to the consolidated FINRA rulebook, which incorporated the National Association of Securities Dealers (“NASD”) rules on registration and qualifications. These changes were proposed pursuant to FINRA Regulatory Notice 09-70: “FINRA Requests Comment on Proposed Consolidated Registration and Qualification Requirements” (“Proposal”).
Essentially, the purpose of the Proposal is to streamline NASD Rules 1021 and 1031. Under the NASD, these rules governed registration requirements of representatives and principals. Under current FINRA rules, investment bankers and broker-dealers of FINRA member firms must register. Additionally, FINRA member firms may register any individuals that engage in legal, compliance, internal audit, or back-office operations. The primary effect of the proposal would significantly broaden the current “permissive” registration categories to allow member firms to register certain persons employed by member firms or their financial services affiliates. Because of this expansion, FINRA also would introduce new stand-alone registration categories:
(1) active registration, for individuals engaged in investment banking or securities activities
(2) inactive registration, for individuals engaged in the “bona fide” business purpose of the member
(3) retained associate registration, for individuals functioning as financial services affiliates.
The actual text of the Proposal can be accessed here.
The comment period was slated to end February 1, 2010, but was extended to March 1, 2010. Twenty-one organizations submitted comments, voicing opinions ranging from full support to complete abandonment. The organizations included investment firms such as Edward Jones and T.Rowe Price and industry associations like the North American Securities Administrators Association, Inc. (“NASAA”) and the Securities Investment and Financial Markets Association (“SIFMA”). Most of the comments voiced general overall support, but suggested small changes to help effectuate a more efficient transition. See SIFMA Comment and Edward Jones Comment. The NASAA was one of the few who voiced complete abandonment of the acquisition of NASD rules into the consolidated FINRA rulebook. The primary objection to the Proposal is FINRA’s lack of guidance on the appropriate substance of a registered inactive person’s education and continuing education requirements. However, NASAA suggests this issue could be solved by continued use of FINRA’s current qualification examination waiver process, which would be superseded by the new rules. Further, the NASAA believes these three new registration categories constitute radical changes that are structured for the convenience of member firms not investor protection.
FINRA has not yet filed its rule proposal with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which may suggest the organization will make changes before its submission.