In Interactive Brokers, LLC v. Saroop, the United States Federal Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit made it clear that a broker’s contract that incorporates FINRA rules supports a breach of contract claim when the broker violates FINRA. Further, this case reinforces the public policy of using arbitration to lower costs and create an efficient resolution forum for disputes.
Interactive Brokers that Saroop and two others (collectively, the “Investors”) opened accounts with Interactive Brokers where they were required to sign the contracts that provided that all transactions were subject to “rules and policies of relevant market and clearinghouses, and applicable laws and regulations.” Interactive Brokers hired a third-party to trade the Investors’ accounts (the “Manager”). Using the Investors’ margin accounts, the Manager invested in short-term futures, with a symbol of VXX. The Manager sold naked call options for VXX, meaning that the Investors had the right to buy VVX at a set price until the option expired. This works great if the market price increases but is a serious problem if the value decreases. To make matters worse, the Manager traded using the Investors’ margin accounts. A margin account is when you borrow money to purchase stock. This means that you can lose more money than you invested.
The high risk associated with margin trading prompted FINRA to prohibit purchases of VXX using margin.