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Posts Tagged ‘FINRA’s 2007 Annual Report’

Where Is Finra’s 2008 Annual Report?

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 8th, 2009 10:33 AM |

Finra released its 2007 Annual Report in mid-April 2008. Here it is June 8, 2009 and Finra has yet to release its 2008 Annual Report. What is going on? Aside from speculating, I called Finra this morning to inquire.

A source from within Finra’s Media Source division informed me to call back in a month. I questioned how and why in a period of economic and market dislocation, and with a heightened sensitivity on increased regulatory transparency, that Finra is being less transparent. I received a healthy dose of red tape and little direction.  I have a call into Finra spokesman Herb Perone. That said, June 8, 2009 and no Annual Report.  “Call back in a month.”

Why do I want to review Finra’s 2008 Annual Report? I know that fines and sanctions collected by Finra diminished by approximately 30% over the last year. The WSJ highlighted that information and I expounded upon it in writing, How Courageous is Mary Schapiro? My specific area of interest is a review of Finra’s investments within their own internal portfolio.

Recall that from their investment portfolio, Finra sold $647 million (position as of year end 2006) of Auction Rate Securities in Spring 2007. What did Finra do with their investments in hedge funds, fund of funds, private equity, common equities, and fixed income? Would Finra be so forthcoming as to provide insight as to why they needed to raise all that cash from the Auction Rate Securities liquidation?

Our markets and economy are screaming for increased transparency and regulation in an attempt to reinstill a measure of investor confidence.

Finra is prominently situated as a Wall Street regulatory body. Finra is currently being less transparent than a year ago. Why? Ms. Schapiro at the SEC and Richard Ketchum, new head of Finra, can TALK all they want about increased transparency and stiffer regulations. Talk is cheap. Information is everything.

“Call back in a month…” does NOT get it done.

LD

What Were Ms. Schapiro’s Hedge Fund Investments at FINRA?

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 4th, 2009 8:08 AM |

As Obama looks to send a message to the American public that he will clean up Wall Street, hedge funds are “under the microscope.” Who in Washington will be delegated to lead the charge? None other than SEC head, Mary Schapiro. Bloomberg reports, SEC Chief Schapiro Wants Authority to Make Hedge-Fund Rules.

Hedge funds have become dirty words. When Washington wants to convey excessive Wall Street greed, politicians and regulators now regularly slip “hedge funds” into their statement.

As with any industry, hedge funds run the gamut in terms of business practices and ethics. It is well documented, though, that Washington solicits and receives excessive campaign contributions from the hedge fund community.

I agree that the hedge fund industry deserves greater scrutiny. A trillion dollar industry unregulated is a breeding ground for problems.

Bloomberg reports:

“It’s probably not enough just to register hedge funds” with the SEC, Schapiro said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “It may well be necessary to put in place particular kinds of rules.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s plan to overhaul financial oversight in response to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression would force hedge funds to register with the SEC, subjecting firms to new disclosure requirements and inspections by agency staff. Schapiro said the SEC’s authority should be broader, so it can impose further restrictions on funds as “situations evolve.”

President Barack Obama yesterday blamed hedge funds that had lent Chrysler LLC money for triggering the automaker’s bankruptcy. Obama said the funds were “speculators” that refused the administration’s buyout offers because they were holding out for an “unjustified taxpayer bailout.”

Schapiro said “it’s certainly possible” that the SEC would consider forcing hedge funds to publicly disclose short- sale positions, imposing restrictions on leverage and restricting what the firms can invest in.

Does anybody have an issue with increased disclosure and oversight? Transparency is critically important in making sure the playing field for all investors is kept fair and level.

Ms. Schapiro does have experience with hedge funds prior to this engagement, though. As I have highlighted, Ms. Schapiro, as head of FINRA, oversaw investments within FINRA’s internal portfolio which included hedge funds, fund of funds, and private equity.

From the 2007 FINRA Annual Report:

FINRA also has investments in hedge funds and funds of hedge funds that it accounts for under the equity method and includes in other investments in the consolidated balance sheets. As of December 31, 2007, the Company had hedge fund investments of $431.2 million.

Ms. Schapiro should be compelled to share with the investing public in which hedge funds FINRA invested.

Will those funds withstand the rigor of newly proposed SEC regulation? At the very least we may learn whether Ms. Schapiro was a good steward of FINRA funds. Beyond that, we may learn a lot more.

If the Obama administration is serious about developing new regulations for Wall Street, let’s make sure the transparency includes Ms. Schapiro’s tenure at FINRA and details of FINRA’s investment portfolio!!

LD

Does the Palace Guard Have No Clothes?

Posted by Larry Doyle on April 14th, 2009 5:30 AM |

I eagerly await the soon to be released 2008 Annual Report of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Prior to its release and in light of all the turmoil on Wall Street over the last 24 months, I thought it may be timely to review the mission and some recent history of the “palace guard,” known as FINRA.  From the FINRA website, we learn:

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), is the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. All told, FINRA oversees nearly 5,000 brokerage firms, about 173,000 branch offices and approximately 656,000 registered securities representatives.

Created in July 2007 through the consolidation of NASD and the member regulation, enforcement and arbitration functions of the New York Stock Exchange, FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services.

While FINRA promotes investor protection and market integrity, the simple fact is there are still thousands of investors with an estimated hundred  BILLION dollars locked up in Auction Rate Securities. The ARS market has been designated as a fraud. FINRA not only did not protect the ARS investors, but participated in the ARS market as an investor themselves.  At year end 2006, FINRA had a $647 million position in ARS. Did they sell them? When? To whom? What price? If they did sell their ARS position, did they possess material non-public information and act upon it?  Will the 2008 FINRA Annual Report provide answers? I can only hope.  Aside from a few state attorneys general, who is truly looking to help these investors?

FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business—from registering and educating industry participants to examining securities firms; writing rules; enforcing those rules and the federal securities laws; informing and educating the investing public; providing trade reporting and other industry utilities; and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and registered firms. It also performs market regulation under contract for The NASDAQ Stock Market, the American Stock Exchange, the International Securities Exchange and the Chicago Climate Exchange. (more…)






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