Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Presidential Candidate Requests Information on Proposed Amendments to FINRA’s Expungement Rules

The Central Registration Depository (“CRD”) and the publicly available online portal, BrokerCheck, comprise FINRA’s registration and licensing system.  Via BrokerCheck, customers, employers, and regulators can access information regarding customer complaints levied against an individual broker.  BrokerCheck plays a key role in allowing customers to evaluate their broker’s track record before making investment decisions.  By the same token, adverse claims can have a devastating effect on a broker’s ability to retain their clients.   

As such, FINRA has established rules for the expungement of certain adverse claims from CRD.  Currently, FINRA Rules 12805 and 2080 control customer complaint expungement proceedings.  Rule 12805 requires that a broker file a Statement of Claim requesting expungement of the customer disclosure.  The panel must:

·    hold a recorded session regarding the appropriateness of the expungement;
·   when applicable, review settlement documents and consider the amount of payments made to any party;
·    provide a written explanation which indicates which of the grounds for expungement under Rule 2080 is the basis for the order; and
·    assess all fees for the hearing against the party requesting expungement.[1] 

Under Rule 2080, grounds for expungement include:

·    the claim, allegation or information is factually impossible or clearly erroneous;
·  the registered person was not involved in the alleged investment-related sales practice violation, forgery, theft, misappropriation or conversion of funds; or
·    the claim, allegation or information is false.[2] 

Following an arbitration award recommending an expungement, the broker must then file a petition in a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain an order confirming the award and directing such expungement.

In December 2017, FINRA published Regulatory Notice 17-42, a proposed amendment relating to requests to expunge customer dispute information.  Regulatory Notice 17-42 would create a roster of arbitrators with specific training and experience to handle all expungement requests.  It would also require:

·       the broker to appear at his or her expungement hearing;
·       unanimous agreement of the three person arbitration panel;
·      expungement requests to be brought within one year of the dispute; and
·       minimum fees for filing expungement requests.[3] 

Since publishing Regulatory Notice 17-42 for public comment, FINRA has not submitted it to the SEC.  As such, the proposed expungement rules are not currently in effect.  In a March 2019 letter to FINRA President and CEO Robert Cook, Senator Elizabeth Warren requested an update on FINRA’s proposed rule changes to its customer dispute information expungement process.[4]  If eventually submitted and finalized, the new process for removing customer dispute information from a broker’s CRD will be more onerous on the broker and likely decrease the frequency with which expungement requests are granted.  Senator Warren’s letter requests, among other things, a timeline for when FINRA will submit Regulatory Notice 17-42 to the SEC for approval.

It is unclear if or when the new CRD expungement rules will be submitted to the SEC and put into effect.  FINRA spokespersons have declined to comment on the substance of Senator Warren’s letter, stating, “We have received the senator’s letter and are working to respond accordingly.”[5] 

Given the uncertainty of the status of FINRA’s expungement rules, it is important that brokers seeking CRD expungement select an attorney capable of guiding them through expungement proceedings under the current and any potential future FINRA rules.  Cosgrove Law Group, LLC has represented numerous individuals in CRD expungement proceedings under the current rules and stands ready to represent brokers in proceedings governed by the proposed amended rules.  If you are seeking expungement of customer complaints from your CRD/BrokerCheck, you may wish to consult with experienced counsel at Cosgrove Law Group.

BY: Max Simpson

[1] FINRA Rule 12805,
[2] FINRA Rule 2080,
[4]Letter, Sen. Warren to Cook, March 21, 2019,
[5], Warren presses FINRA for answers on expungement reform,

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