Articles Posted in Industry Topics

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services (i.e., storage and network infrastructure and software-as-a-service (“SaaS”)) on the internet rather than your computer’s hard drive. Currently, cloud computing is considered a valuable asset to firms, industry wide. It is important to have Malecki Law’s FINRA Regulatory Lawyers in New York assist in ensuring your firm’s storage systems are sufficient. As a result, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (“FINRA”) Office of Financial Innovation (“OFI”) published a report addressing the results of a study regarding the state of cloud adoption within the securities industry. In drafting the report, FINRA obtained data from roughly 40 broker-dealer firms, cloud service providers, industry analysts, and technology consultants.

The report noted that cloud computing strengthens a brokerage firm’s ability to scale operations, generate business continuity solutions and quickly deploy products. Moreover, firms claimed that there are both benefits and challenges regarding agility, resiliency, costs, cybersecurity, staffing, and operations. Additionally, many firms claimed that migrating to the cloud may allow them to be more innovative and offer products at a faster speed. Firms also felt that cloud computing enables them to more efficiently scale computer usage to assist with the increase in IT resources.

As part of its recommendations, FINRA advised broker-firms that use third-party service providers that they have an ongoing responsibility to monitor and supervise the provider’s performance and create oversight procedures. FINRA also encourages companies and vendors to “re-evaluate their approach to security, including reviewing cloud misconfigurations and poor access controls; update data-related policies and procedures if a firm’s cloud adoption leads to changes in how it collects, stores, analyzes, and shares sensitive customer data; create, maintain, and annually review a written business continuity plan, in line with the FINRA Rule 4370 (Business Continuity Plans and Emergency Contact Information); consider the risk posed by cloud vendors and service providers; ensure that any data and information stored in the cloud is compliant with Exchange Act Rule 17a -4, and are preserved in a non-rewriteable and non-erasable format.”

Brokerage firms owe its clients the duty to supervise its employees and personnel. This is a very important duty in the financial industry, as it ensures the associated persons under the brokerage firm’s umbrella are compliant with FINRA’s rules. Firms should maintain its duty to supervise, and ensure that it has adequate procedures in place to prevent any potential misconduct that would be harmful to its clients. If your brokerage firm had inadequate supervisory procedures in place, the firm may be subject to failure to supervise claims. You need a New York Securities Industry Lawyer like the lawyers at Malecki Law.

A faulty compliance system can rise to the level of a failure to supervise. Broker-dealer Joseph Stone Capital (JSC) apparently dealt with exactly that. FINRA found that the firm’s compliance system had been insufficient in supervising its brokers, from January 2015 through June 2020. Specifically, JSC received exception reports that revealed potential excessive trading red flags. However, JSC failed to further investigate or prevent such activity.

To prevent this problem from occurring, a JSC supervisor responsible for reviewing the exception reports should have reviewed the clearing firm’s exception report daily. That supervisor would have discovered the possibility of excessive trading. If your brokerage firm failed to further investigate or prevent misconduct like JSC, it may be prone to failure to supervise claims. You need a Regulatory Defense Law Firm in New York, like Malecki Law. Additionally, after discovering these excessive trades, management should have questioned the broker about this trading activity, instead of restricting commissions. Supervisors should have reviewed every trade confirmation in the accounts in question and evaluated whether the trades were solicited (where the broker recommended the trade) or unsolicited (where the client recommended the trade). If the confirmations stated “solicited”, then management could ask for the broker’s thought process for making these trades. This would have identified the crux of the issue more efficiently and would have led to a quicker resolution. One can argue that JSC should improve its compliance software, but the software was not truly at issue during this investigation. According to all evidence, the compliance software seemed to work. The FINRA Order shows that the problem truly stemmed from JSC’s supervisors’ failure to act accordingly to stop their brokers’ activities of excessive trading. If your brokerage firm failed to act accordingly when discovering potential broker misconduct, it may be susceptible to failure to supervise claims. You need a Regulatory Defense Attorney in New York, like the lawyers at Malecki Law. It is unclear how JSC’s compliance software works, but they could also look to incorporate artificial intelligence and machine learning to generate quicker and more accurate compliance reports.

This Thursday, September 8, 2022, New York City securities lawyer, Jenice L. Malecki, Esq., will be part of a live panel at the PLI’s Securities Arbitration 2022 program, a 1-day Continuing Legal Education (CLE) event on best practices and the latest trends in securities arbitration.  The event will be hosted by the Practising Law Institute (PLI), and will be held at PLI New York, 1177 Avenue of the Americas, as well as online as part of a live Webcast.

At the event, Ms. Malecki is scheduled to speak at 2:45 p.m. on Discovery Issues in FINRA arbitration. As part of a panel, Ms. Malecki will discuss FINRA’s discovery rules and procedures, understanding the role of arbitrators in the discovery process, how to execute orders of confidentiality, concepts around producing electronically stored information (ESI) such as proportionality, and how to avoid discovery abuse and related sanctions. Other presenters at the event include other securities attorneys and arbitrators, including Richard Berry, Director of Dispute Resolution at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The event’s programming includes an update on FINRA arbitration statistics and trends, what is new at FINRA Dispute Resolution Services, as well as recent technology updates and FINRA’s latest response to Covid-19 and how to comply.

Ms. Malecki is a regular presenter and panelist at securities industry events.  She is known for her nearly thirty-five years of securities industry practice and is the founder and principal of Malecki Law, a Manhattan-based securities law firm that provides both national and international representation, and has helped retail investors recover tens of millions of dollars in stock market losses, whether due to brokerage firm negligence, Ponzi schemes, or other financial frauds. Malecki Law also represents securities industry financial professionals in employment disputes with their firms, expunge unjustified customer complaints or defamatory comments from their Form U5 and BrokerCheck CRD, and defends them when faced with regulatory inquiries, including responding to SEC subpoenas and FINRA 8210 requests.  Ms. Malecki is a former board member of FINRA and member of its National Arbitration and Mediation Committee (NAMC).  She is presently the co-chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Securities Arbitration Committee, as well as an adjunct professor in the securities clinic at the New York Law School.

On July 27, 2022, the Securities Arbitration Committee of the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association will put on a free, lunch hour (12:15 PM to 1:30 PM) educational panel to discuss issues unique to the legal representation of employees in the securities industry.  The seminar will feature panelists Pearl Zuchlewski and Kirsten Patzer, experienced attorneys who will discuss “An Employee’s Perils: Securities Arbitration in a Regulated World.” The panel will share their experiences in employee representation as it relates to industry rules set forth by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), respectively applying to financial professionals registered with broker dealer and investment advisory institutions.

The lunchtime discussion will focus on differences between representing registered individuals in different forums, whether relating to customer or industry disputes in FINRA Arbitration or the American Arbitration Association (AAA). Discussion will also include common issues relating to registration (e.g., U4/U5 disputes) or other employment disputes, regulatory implications for financial professionals called before the SEC or FINRA (i.e., via subpoena or FINRA 8210 requests), and considerations for when there are civil or criminal penalties at stake.  Special attention will be devoted to resulting issues likely to impact a financial professional’s future employment, whether inside or outside the securities industry, as well as a discussion on the latest regulatory trends in this space.

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and its Securities Arbitration Committee regularly hosts seminars and educational panels like this one. The committee is co-chaired by Jenice L. Malecki, Esq., founder and proprietor of Malecki Law, a Manhattan-based securities firm that has provided national legal representation to securities industry professionals before regulators (SEC and FINRA) as well as in customer arbitrations, expungement hearings, and U4/U5 disputes for over twenty-five years. Ms. Malecki has additionally served on FINRA’s National Arbitration and Mediation Committee (NAMC), on the board of the Public Investors Advocate Bar Association (PIABA), and is currently an adjunct professor in the Securities Arbitration Clinic at the New York Law School.

Malecki Law is pleased to announce that Ms. Jacqueline Candella has joined Malecki Law as its new associate securities attorney in New York. Ms. Candella is a recent graduate of the New York Law School yet brings with her an impressive background in the securities and financial industry.

Ms. Candella received her Juris Doctor from Ms. Malecki’s Alma Matter New York Law School (NYLS), having also completed an undergraduate degree in Finance from Pace University. Prior to law school, Ms. Candella served as a client associate for Merrill Lynch – Bank of America’s Wealth Management Department, providing risk assessments, financial analysis, research, and account management support for high-net worth investors.

While in law school, Ms. Candella served as an extern in the Enforcement Division of the Financial Regulatory Authority (FINRA), where she assisted in the investigation of member firms and associated persons for violations of federal securities laws and industry rules.  She provided a wide range of support functions for FINRA’s enforcement attorneys, including research and drafting on legal issues. Ms. Candella also participated in interviews with registered representatives and worked on Form U4 and U5 registration issues. In a separate internship, Ms. Candella gained relevant law firm and litigation experience, performing significant work on customer arbitrations and mediations through NYLS’s Field Placement office.

Today at 1:00 PM, NYC FINRA arbitration lawyer Jenice L. Malecki, Esq. will be presenting at a year-in-review webinar hosted by the defense firm Bressler, Amery & Ross, entitled A Recap of 2021 Virtual Proceedings 2nd Annual Hearings in Review.  There is still time to attend and register for the event, which is open to securities attorneys and securities industry professionals. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits are approved for attorneys licensed in New York and Pennsylvania, with reciprocity for New Jersey, Florida, and California.  CLE approval has also been applied for and is pending for credit in North Carolina, Alabama, and Texas.

Other presenters at the event include other securities attorneys, including Richard Berry, Director of Dispute Resolution at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The event reviews the increase in virtual arbitration hearings throughout 2020 and 2021 owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, providing outcome statistics and the ongoing trend for virtual proceedings in FINRA customer and industry arbitrations. FINRA has long provided technology and support for virtual arbitration hearings primarily via Zoom and many trial attorneys opted for virtual hearings to avoid Covid-related backlog delays and to ensure their clients received a timely hearing.  Practitioners and arbitrators have become so used to using the trial platform that it deserves proper study regarding fair case outcomes if the practice is to continue – for the foreseeable future, virtual proceedings at FINRA appear here to stay.  The webinar will review practice tips, techniques, and resources for conducting effective virtual trials, best practices for presenting evidence, developing a plan for technology failures, and how the experience compares to in-person civil trials.

Ms. Malecki is a regular presenter and panelist at securities industry events.  As a renowned and skilled litigator in both courts and arbitration, Ms. Malecki has been featured regularly in the media and has published numerous articles to advance diversity and financial elder abuse issues within the securities litigation field.  She is known for her nearly thirty-five years of securities industry practice and is the founder and principal of Malecki Law, a FINRA Arbitration Law Firm that has been based in New York City’s financial district for over twenty years. Ms. Malecki is a former board member of FINRA and member of its National Arbitration and Mediation Committee (NAMC).  She is presently the co-chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Securities Arbitration Committee, as well as an adjunct professor in the securities clinic at the New York Law School.

Weighing in on all things financial services, top securities industry lawyer, Jenice L. Malecki, commented on two matters going on at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

First, under fire again, it looks like another FINRA arbitration is poised for potential vacatur because of the conduct of an over-reaching, advocatory-styled arbitrator who would not give a customer their day in court.  A Florida state court is now entertaining a case where the Alabama Securities Commission is seeking to vacate an award that granted expungement of customer complaints from a UBS broker’s record.

Ms. Malecki discussed with Financial Planning Magazine how this is not only bad for the customer, but also bad for the broker.  It taints the proceedings and runs up the bills unnecessarily.  Moreover, this broker will also now have a hotly contested court case on his record when all he did was follow FINRA’s rules.  The broker did not exclude the client, the arbitrator did.  There needs to be  a stronger and better monitored process at FINRA for the sake of all interested parties, as well as stronger monitoring of that process by FINRA – not just letting arbitrators act like self-appointed judges without oversight.  Even the best judges in the world are subject to oversight, but FINRA arbitrators are not.  The scenario presented is not shocking.  It was just a matter of time before something like this happened, and FINRA should have seen this coming for years.

The Public Investors Advocate Bar Association (PIABA) will be welcoming back the organization’s former board member, Jenice Malecki, as a moderator for its Mid-Year Meeting and one-day continuing legal education (CLE) program entitled Getting Grandma’s Nest Egg Back.  The program kicks off on April 21, 2022, from 12 PM to 6 PM, and will be held via Zoom for registered participants.  The CLE program is designed for securities arbitration practitioners, including attorneys, experts, consultants, mediators, educators, but it is also open to the general public.

Ms. Malecki will be moderating the program finale, Strategies and Techniques in Dealing with FINRA Arbitrations Involving Senior Citizens. The panel will feature securities litigator Sandra Grannum from the law firm Faegre Drinker and Professor Christine Lazaro, Director of the Securities Arbitration Clinic at St. John’s University School of Law. The experienced panel of lawyers will delve into strategies and techniques such as client and witness preparation, cross examination of brokers and registered investment advisors (RIAs), tactics commonly employed by defense firms, and what to consider in arbitration when dealing with senior citizen claims specifically.

Financial elder abuse is a topic that is near and dear to Ms. Malecki, who has long been passionate about advocating for retirees who have been taken advantage of or have lost their retirement savings owing to brokerage firms and financial professionals who did not properly manage or supervise their retirement accounts.  For nearly 30 years, Ms. Malecki has successfully brought numerous lawsuits on behalf of seniors and retirees who have lost their financial nest eggs, recovering tens of millions of investment dollars on their behalf.

Next week, the New York State Bar Association’s Securities Arbitration Committee will be hosting a timely conversation on the future of mandatory arbitration.  For the last 35 years, retail investors seeking recovery of stock market investment losses have had no other choice but to arbitrate their disputes at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  Prior to 1987, investors were able to bring lawsuits in the courts, but that all changed with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Shearson/American Express v. McMahon, 483 U.S. 1056 (1987).  Moderating this event is Jenice L. Malecki, principal and founder of Malecki Law, and also the Co-Chair of the Securities Arbitration Committee.  She has been on FINRA’s National Arbitration and Mediation Committee, on the board of the Public Investors Advocate Bar Association (PIABA), and is an Adjunct Professor at New York Law School.  Invited speakers to the event include Michael Edmiston, the current president of PIABA, Tracey McNeil, Ombudsman for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Angela Turiano, counsel and principal for Bressler Amery and Ross.

The benefits of arbitration have always been the economy of the process, typically involving less costs and faster recovery times than court. Compared to courts, arbitrations further allow very limited grounds for appeal. Arbitrators also have wider latitude than judges to grant relief to investors based on principles of equity and fairness – i.e., not necessarily having to adhere to legal precedent of earlier court decisions. This is a double-edged sword, however, because the potential downside is that arbitrators, who are under no obligation to explain their awards, have similar latitude to depart from substantive law to the detriment of the investor. The speed and economy of the arbitration process has also come under scrutiny, especially with the Covid-19 backlog of in-person arbitration hearings at FINRA.  The fairness of the process has also long been criticized in terms of the quality of the arbitrators and the “neutral” arbitrator selection process managed by FINRA.

What makes this event particularly timely is the very recent news out of a Georgia state court decision, which overturned and vacated an arbitrator award that denied investor claims in favor of the prevailing firm, Wells Fargo. The court made this rare reversal of an arbitration award because, in the court’s determination, Wells Fargo allegedly had an undisclosed “side agreement” with FINRA to exclude certain arbitrators considered to be “investor friendly.” The court agreed with the investor’s position that this side agreement created a bias against the investor because “[p]ermitting one lawyer to secretly red line the neutral list makes the list anything but neutral, and calls into question the entire fairness of the arbitral forum.” Brian Leggett and Bryson Holdings, LLC vs. Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC et al., File No. 2019CV328949, Superior Court of Georgia, Fulton County (January 25, 2022). The news of this decision has intensified pressure on FINRA to not only investigate the matter, but to possibly reform the arbitration process, something that has long been called for by members of Congress and investor advocate organizations like PIABA.

Yesterday, Malecki Law filed its official response to FINRA’s proposed changes to FINRA Rule 3240, in which FINRA seeks to modify the five current exceptions to the general rule that prohibits any “registered person” with a brokerage firm, from borrowing or lending to their customers. The rule applies to registered persons, which is most typically the account’s stockbroker, but applies to any licensed person with the firm. While FINRA has proposed this rule to “narrow the scope” of certain exceptions to the rule, Malecki Law filed its comment because of concerns that some of the modifications do not go far enough and still leaves room for possible abuse of the customer.

The five existing exceptions that currently permit borrowing or lending arrangements with a customer under Rule 3240 are if the customer is (1) a member of the registered person’s immediate family; (2) if the customer is a financial institution; (3) if the customer is also a registered person with the same firm; (4) if the lending arrangement is based on a personal relationship with the customer such that the arrangement would not exist had the personal relationship not existed in the first place; and (5) if the lending arrangements is based on a business relationship external to the broker-customer relationship.

Malecki Law is in favor of Rule 3240’s general prohibition against borrowing or lending to customers, because, as noted in Malecki Law’s filed comment, “there are thousands of brokers and advisors in America,” and therefore plenty “available to take over the debtor or lender’s investment account until the loan is repaid.” So while we support any proposal that narrows the rule, we believe that the inherent conflicts of interest in allowing such arrangements, even with a narrowed set of exceptions, could be entirely avoided in the first place.

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