The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) affects most individuals who make living trading security, monitoring stocks, or are involved otherwise in the financial market. These are brokers and other workers who work at firms or other financial institutions that are registered with FINRA, and thus are subject to an even higher standard than regular federal and state regulations.
FINRA is dedicated to protecting investors by regulating and monitoring the securities industry, to ensure that it is operating fairly to everyone. Before becoming a member of FINRA, members have to go through a lengthy and extensive vetting process including a background check that discloses any criminal or employment history.
If you wish to become FINRA regulated, but have a criminal record, seek out the advice of an attorney. FINRA requires brokers to disclose felonies and misdemeanors (and either convictions or charges) – and all of this will become a part of his or her publicly accessible record. An attorney might be able to help you get the offense expunged, particularly if you were merely charged with something, but it was later determined that you committed no crime.
FINRA can remove a conviction from the broker’s record if there is a criminal court order expunging the criminal conviction. The unfortunate part is that there is no requirement on the part of FINRA to absolutely remove the charge, even after expungement. An attorney might be able to exert some pressure and negotiate with someone in FINRA on your behalf to secure a clean record.
Like many other licensed professionals, if a criminal charge is levied against someone who is already FINRA registered, it can affect their professional license. Finding an attorney to represent you both criminally and administratively will be a huge benefit, as criminal charges (and pleads) can have massive collateral effects – such as losing a professional license. Many of the crimes that FINRA professionals face are insider trading, stock market manipulations, and even stock fraud.
If a federal regulatory agency begins an investigation against you, seek out legal counsel immediately. Many times an attorney can ensure these investigations are only civil in nature, avoiding some of the more severe criminal sanctions – like jail time. You might be questioned by federal agents or even the media if an investigation is ongoing.
Do not speak to anyone without first speaking with an attorney, even if you are positive you have nothing to hide. Remember the mantra that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Better to speak with an attorney – or have them speak for you – than risk the possibility of criminal charges.
FINRA enforcement can also involve arbitration, which is similar to a trial, but there is no judge or jury, and you can usually appeal the final outcome, although it is binding. A good FINRA attorney should have experience at both trial level and with arbitration because each procedure is markedly different.
FINRA proceedings have the unique hearing and procedural rules, much like an administrative hearing, so your attorney should be well-versed with these, in addition to the state and federal regulations that you must adhere to. That is because FINRA can refer cases to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as well as the Department of Justice. Getting an attorney involved immediately will provide you with counsel that is familiar with the case from the beginning and can guide you each step of the way.