What Does FINRA Think About Crowdfunding?

The crowdfunding provisions in Title III of the JOBS Act provide an exemption from registration under the Securities Act of 1933 for securities offered by through crowdfunding, provided the numerous requirements are met. An intermediary that seeks to engage in crowdfunding must be registered as a broker-dealer or a funding portal. I expect many people are looking at what the regulatory requirements are going to be for this new type of entity. The JOBS Act also requires that a funding portal be a member of an applicable SRO, but limits the examination and enforcement authority of the SRO over registered funding portals to rules “written specifically for registered funding portals.”

FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 12-34 soliciting public comment on the appropriate scope of FINRA rules that should apply to member firms engaging in crowdfunding activities, either as funding portals or as brokers.

Commenters are encouraged to identify the types of requirements that should apply to registered funding portals, taking into account the relatively limited scope of activities by a registered funding portal permitted under the JOBS Act. Comments are particularly requested about possible rules concerning supervision, advertising, anti-money laundering, fraud and manipulation, and just and equitable principles of trade.

I think would-be crowdfunding portal developers are going to have a hard time dealing with the know-your-customer rules required in setting up an account.

Would established firms set up crowdfunding portals. FINRA is clearly anticipating that some of its member firms will do so. And why not? I’m sure a brokerage firm could view a crowdfunding portal as a minor league, allowing them to farm prospects for bigger alternative investments.

FINRA is already looking at potential conflicts.

FINRA also requests comment on whether engaging in crowdfunding might present special conflicts or concerns for a broker-dealer, such as might arise if a registered representative were to recommend that a customer visit the firm’s crowdfunding site.

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