The SEC fined and censured a broker-dealer because its under-resourced compliance function failed to implement adequate employee and information monitoring procedures. The firm’s Chief Compliance Office, who also served as a relationship manager, was initially appointed despite a lack of compliance experience. He pleaded for more compliance resources, including the use of a third party compliance consultant, to monitor the firm’s 45+ registered representatives, but the CEO refused because the firm “needed to generate more revenue before it could spend more money on compliance.” As a result, the broker-dealer failed to review employee securities trading, review a sufficient number of emails, and monitor information barriers.
OUR TAKE: Registered advisers and broker-dealers should retain a fully-committed CCO – either through hiring or by retaining a third party compliance firm – that has significant compliance experience. Dual-hatting an unqualified internal employee will not satisfy the regulators. Also, firms must adequately resource the compliance function. Based on previous benchmarking studies, most SEC-regulated entities spend between 7%-20% of total operating costs on compliance, with a minimum of 5% of revenues.