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Company Filings More Search Options. Federal or state securities laws require brokers, investment advisers, and their firms to be licensed or registered, and to make important information public. But it's up to you to find that information and use it to protect your investment dollars. The good news is that this information is easy to get, and one phone call or web search may save you from sending your money to a con artist, an unscrupulous financial professional, or a disreputable firm.
Before you invest or pay for any investment advice, make sure your brokers, investment advisers, and investment adviser representatives have not had disciplinary problems or been in trouble with regulators or other investors. You also should check to see whether they are registered or licensed. This is very important, because if you do business with an unregistered securities broker or a firm that later goes out of business, there may be no way for you to recover your money — even if an arbitrator or a court rules in your favor.
The Central Registration Depository CRD is a computerized database that contains information about most brokers, their representatives, and the firms they work for. For instance, you can find out if brokers are properly licensed in your state and if they have had disciplinary problems with regulators or received serious complaints from investors.
You'll also find information about the brokers' educational backgrounds and where they've worked before their current jobs. Because your state securities regulator may provide more comprehensive information from the CRD than FINRA, especially when it comes to investor complaints, you may want to check with your state securities regulator first. You'll find contact information for your state securities regulator on the website of the North American Securities Administrators Association.
People or firms that get paid to give advice about investing in securities generally must register with either the SEC or the state securities agency where they have their principal place of business. As discussed in greater detail below, the rules governing the registration of certain investment advisers have changed. The Dodd-Frank Act amends certain provisions of the Investment Advisers Act of by delegating generally to the states responsibility over certain mid-sized investment advisers — i.
This means that state securities authorities will have primary regulatory authority over a substantial number of investment advisers that previously were subject to primary regulation by the SEC. Some investment advisers employ investment adviser representatives, the people who actually work with clients. In most cases, these people must be licensed or registered with your state securities regulator to do business with you.
So be sure to check them out with your state securities regulator. To find out about an investment adviser and whether it is properly registered, read its registration form, called "Form ADV.
Part 1 contains information about the adviser's business and whether the adviser has had problems with regulators or clients. Before you hire an investment adviser, always ask for and carefully read both parts of the Form ADV. An adviser must deliver the brochure supplement to the client before or at the time that the specific individual begins to provide investment advice to the client.
You can also obtain copies of Form ADV for individual advisers and firms from the investment adviser, your state securities regulator, or the SEC, depending on the size of the adviser.
Because some investment advisers and their representatives are also brokers, you may want to check both BrokerCheck and Form ADV. Once you've checked out the registration and record of your financial professional or firm, there's more to do. For example, if you plan to do business with a brokerage firm, you should find out whether the brokerage firm and its clearing firm are members of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation SIPC. SIPC provides limited customer protection if a brokerage firm becomes insolvent — although it does not insure against losses attributable to a decline in the market value of your securities.
If you've placed your cash or securities in the hands of a non-SIPC member, you may not be eligible for SIPC coverage if the firm goes out of business. For more questions and additional tips, be sure to read our publications, Ask Questions and Get the Facts on Saving and Investing.
In addition, although the SEC cannot recommend or endorse any particular entity, there are a number of non-profit educational and consumer organizations that offer free tools to help investors check financial professionals. Securities and Exchange Commission. Check Out Brokers and Investment Advisers Tips for Checking Out Brokers and Investment Advisers Federal or state securities laws require brokers, investment advisers, and their firms to be licensed or registered, and to make important information public.
Brokers and Brokerage Firms The Central Registration Depository CRD is a computerized database that contains information about most brokers, their representatives, and the firms they work for. Investment Advisers People or firms that get paid to give advice about investing in securities generally must register with either the SEC or the state securities agency where they have their principal place of business.
Conclusion Once you've checked out the registration and record of your financial professional or firm, there's more to do. Here are a few questions to get you started.
What experience do you have, especially with people in my circumstances? Where did you go to school? What is your recent employment history? What licenses do you hold? Are the firm, the clearing firm, and any other related companies that will do business with me members of SIPC? What products and services do you offer? Can you recommend only a limited number of products or services to me? How are you paid for your services? What is your usual hourly rate, flat fee, or commission? Have you ever been disciplined by any government regulator for unethical or improper conduct or been sued by a client who was not happy with the work you did?
For registered investment advisers, will you send me a copy of both parts of your Form ADV?