Articles Posted in Customer Complaints

On June 30, 2021, FINRA ordered an approximately $70 Million financial penalty against Robinhood Financial LLC, the highest such penalty ever levied by the regulatory organization.[1] Through its investigation of the firm, FINRA charged Robinhood with numerous violations which had resulted in significant losses to their customers. While Robinhood neither confirmed nor denied the validity of FINRA’s charges, they ultimately agreed to settle with these massive sanctions. [1]

FINRA noted three major violations from its investigation into Robinhood’s conduct and operations as a stock-trading app, each of which merited its own penalties.

First, FINRA found that Robinhood has pervasively and negligently provided false or misleading information to its customers. [1] This false information was circulated in spite of Robinhood’s core mission to “de-mystify finance for all” and “democratize finance,” and ranged from misrepresenting customer account balances and buying power, to erroneous communication about customers facing margin calls. [2]

It has been a tumultuous week in the investment world, with rallies among a gaggle of unlikely stocks, spurred on by a group of even more unlikely investors – retail investors who have banded together on the popular social media site, Reddit.

As has been widely reported this week, when Reddit retail investors discovered that hedge fund managers were widely shorting GameStop, AMC, and others, they urged fellow users to begin buying up these stocks. This frenzy of investment activity resulted in a short squeeze, sending GameStop’s stock price soaring, causing hedge funds to incur huge losses on their short positions, and placing popular online trading platforms in a precarious financial situation.  GameStop shares closed the week of January 25, 2021 up 400% in spite of market volatility and restrictions, and without any material change to the prospects of company.

But how did we get here?

The Wall Street Journal published an article by Jason Zweig and Andrea Fuller on August 31, 2020 explaining their analysis of how financial advisers fell short in meeting their obligations to disclose important information to individual investors like you.[1] The Wall Street Journal analyzed the filings made by investment advisers on the SEC Form CRS.  The article and analysis revealed what seems to be disturbing lack of candor by investment advisers.

It is fundamental to full and fair disclosure that if an individual investor wants to know whether their financial adviser, or a financial adviser they want to hire, has any legal or regulatory problems, that this information is easy for an investor to obtain.  To that end, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) sought to simplify the process by which an individual investor can access this information.  The result of the SEC’s efforts was the “Form CRS.”  “CRS” stands for customer (or client) relationship summary.

This information has been available.  However, for the average “Main Street” individual investor, the information was not easy to find.  And when the customer complaint and regulatory history was found, the disclosures were difficult to understand.  The Form CRS[2] was intended to address this complexity and difficulty through simplification.  Thus, the SEC created what SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in November 2018 would be a “clear and concise” document.  I think they succeeded.  Wall Street, however, failed.

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