FINRA today announced it has fined Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (CGMI) $1.25 million for failing to conduct timely or adequate background checks on approximately 10,400 non-registered associated persons spanning a seven-year period.
Federal securities laws require broker-dealers to fingerprint certain associated persons working in a non-registered capacity prior to or upon association with the firm. The fingerprint results provide information about a prospective associated person’s criminal background, and firms use the results as part of their background check to determine, among other things, whether a prospective associated person has previously engaged in misconduct that subjects the individual to a statutory disqualification. Federal banking laws require banks to conduct similar checks on banking employees using a more limited list of disqualifying events.
FINRA found that from January 2010 through May 2017, CGMI failed to conduct timely or adequate background checks on approximately 10,400 of its non-registered associated persons. Also, the firm did not fingerprint at least 520 of the 10,400 non-registered associated persons until after they began their association with CGMI, thus preventing the firm from determining whether any individuals were subject to statutory disqualification from associating with a FINRA member firm. In addition, the firm was unable to determine whether it timely fingerprinted at least an additional 520 non-registered persons. While CGMI fingerprinted other non-registered associated persons, it failed to screen them as required by federal securities laws, instead limiting its screening to what was required by federal banking laws. FINRA found that because of these failures, three individuals who were subject to statutory disqualification because of criminal convictions were allowed to associate, or remain associated, with the firm during the relevant period. This arose from its failure to maintain a reasonable supervisory system and procedures to identify and properly screen all individuals who became associated with the firm in a non-registered capacity.
Susan Schroeder, Executive Vice President of FINRA’s Department of Enforcement, said, “FINRA member firms must live up to their responsibility as a gatekeeper protecting investors from bad actors. It is important that firms appropriately screen all employees for past criminal or regulatory events that can disqualify individuals from associating with member firms, even in a non-registered capacity.”
In settling this matter, CGMI neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings.
FINRA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to investor protection and market integrity. It regulates one critical part of the securities industry – brokerage firms doing business with the public in the United States. FINRA, overseen by the SEC, writes rules, examines for and enforces compliance with FINRA rules and federal securities laws, registers broker-dealer personnel and offers them education and training, and informs the investing public. In addition, FINRA provides surveillance and other regulatory services for equities and options markets, as well as trade reporting and other industry utilities. FINRA also administers a dispute resolution forum for investors and brokerage firms and their registered employees. For more information, visit www.finra.org.