Beginning July 9, 2018, FINRA will conduct an individual public records search on every applicant when a broker-dealer files a form U-4 application for registration. FINRA currently performs this search for all registered persons—but only annually. This additional records search—
which will satisfy the requirement to perform a search of records for judgments, bankruptcies, and liens only—will provide added benefit to member firms and registered persons, according to FINRA. In FINRA’s May 18, 2018 Information Notice, FINRA claims this additional search is “likely to: (1) reduce the costs to firms associated with conducting these public records checks, which often involve finding and hiring a vendor; (2) result in more timely reporting of disclosure information to the benefit of regulators, investors and firms; and (3) result in a significant reduction of late disclosure fees related to judgments and liens.”
Numbers (1) and (2) seem like probable benefits to both the member firms and the registered persons. Saying the same for number (3), however, appears to be a stretch. Regardless, the burden of these public records searches is real, especially to smaller broker-dealers. FINRA taking over this requirement is a welcome change and one that makes sense given that it is already performing the annual searches. Firms and agents will still need to respond to and file any items that are found in these searches, but the searches themselves will no longer have to be performed in-house or by a third-party vender for each registered hire.
Finally, firms and registered persons are still required to report unsatisfied liens and judgments within 30 calendar days of learning of the event as long as the agent is registered and to report other activity, such as certain criminal matters per FINRA Rules.
 Firms and registered persons are required to report unsatisfied liens and judgments within 30 calendar days of learning of the event. FINRA determines whether a filing is late based on the date the registered person learned of the judgment or lien and, if it is late, will assess the late disclosure fee based on that date. See Information Notice 8/17/12 (Late Disclosure Fee Related to Reporting of Judgment/Lien Events). Occasionally, an individual is unaware of the existence of a judgment or lien. The public records search facilitates the identification and timely reporting of these events