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FINRA needs reform after Madoff, Stanford

Financial Law     updated  2009/10/02 09:55


The brokerage industry's self-policing body must make reforms to protect investors after its inspections failed to uncover the massive Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff and the alleged fraud by R. Allen Stanford, according to a special review.

The special committee's review recommends that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority's brokerage examination program be revamped to ensure that detecting and preventing fraud are central elements.

FINRA lacks a central database for its examiners with investors' complaints about firms, so staff members missed numerous "red flags" on Stanford's firm, according to the review released Friday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission's stunning failure to detect Madoff's fraud for nearly two decades, despite numerous warning signs raised by outsiders, has brought the federal agency widespread criticism and pressure to revamp itself. The SEC inspector general found that the agency bungled five investigations of Madoff's business between June 1992 and last December, when the prominent financier confessed.

Earlier this week, the inspector general issued recommendations for the SEC to avoid another breakdown, including a new system for handling the thousands of tips and complaints the agency receives.

FINRA's internal review, begun in April, was conducted by outside attorneys led by Charles Bowsher, a former U.S. comptroller general.

The organization is developing a reform plan based on the recommendations to be presented to its board in December, FINRA Chairman and CEO Richard Ketchum said in a letter Thursday to the SEC, which oversees FINRA.


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