Independent broker/dealers continue to face a wave of legal and regulatory issues in 2013, with many expected to shutter their businesses.
As reported Jan. 20 by Investment News, the problems facing smaller B-Ds with 150 registered representatives or fewer include higher compliance costs, record low interest rates for money market accounts, competitive commission rates from large or discount broker-dealers and a tax increase that will cut available discretionary funds that investors can put to work in the stock market.
Small B-Ds make up the majority of firms registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). In the first 11 months of 2012, pressures on the industry reduced the number of FINRA-registered firms to 4,319 – down 97 firms from the prior year and a 14% decline since the end of 2007.
Regulatory and compliance issues are a key factor contributing to the reduction in smaller B-Ds. In a move to improve investor protections, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved FINRA Rule 4524 in 2012, which mandated that broker/dealers file additional financial or operational schedules or reports as FINRA deemed necessary.
Many B-Ds to close up shop in the past few years have done so because of deals involving failed private placements, such as those connected to Provident Royalties LLC and Medical Capital Holdings LLC. The SEC charged both of those firms with fraud in July 2099, which in turn spurred a rash of investor lawsuits and arbitration claims. As a result, many broker/dealers were unable to contend with the litigation costs and subsequently shut down.