A dually registered RIA/BD agreed to pay approximately $600,000 in disgorgement, penalties and interest because a deficient compliance infrastructure failed to ensure full disclosure of revenue sharing. According to the SEC, the respondent engaged in a scheme since 1999 whereby its clearing broker would kick back a $20 markup fee on trades. The clearing broker also paid trailer fees on NTF mutual funds. The SEC alleges that the firm failed to properly disclose the revenue sharing and, in many cases, reps who didn’t know better told clients that the firm did not receive compensation from the clearing broker. The SEC charges that the firm did not have adequate compliance policies and procedures and ordered the Chief Compliance Officer, the firm’s former receptionist, to complete 30 hours of compliance training. The firm also agreed to hire an independent compliance consultant.
“We’ve always done it this way” is not a legitimate excuse for failing to comply with regulatory requirements. The firm engaged in the undisclosed revenue sharing for nearly 20 years before the SEC uncovered the conflict of interest. Perhaps, the firm never considered that its longstanding practice violated the securities laws. This is why we recommend retaining a fully-dedicated and experienced chief compliance officer either as a full-time employee or through a compliance services firm.