Suitability, misrepresentation and complex investment products like structured notes, non-traded REITs, and private placements played a key role for the increase in fines and disciplinary actions brought by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against firms and brokers in 2012. Last year saw 4% more disciplinary cases than in 2011, as well as an increase in fines by 15%.
A recent study conducted by Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP showed 2012 as the fourth consecutive year of growth in the number of cases filed by FINRA and the second consecutive year of growth for the amount of fines.
In total, FINRA filed 1,541 disciplinary actions in 2012 and assessed $78.2 million in fines, the study says.
In addition to the increase in fines, the study revealed that FINRA is becoming more aggressive when it comes to getting restitution for aggrieved investors. Last year, FINRA ordered firms and representatives to pay a record $34 million in restitution, up 80% from $19 million in 2011.
Leading the list of enforcement actions by FINRA in 2012 were suitability and due-diligence cases. A total of 117 suitability cases were brought by FINRA in 2012, a 10% increase from the 106 cases reported in 2011 and nearly double the amount in 2008 and 2009.
Of the 62 due-diligence cases filed in 2012, FINRA issued $12.8 million in fines.