Firms seem to be complying with a new FINRA rule requiring their Websites to link to BrokerCheck, a decidedly unscientific SAC survey shows.
As we reported in SAA 2016-22, the FINRA amendment to Rule 2210 (Communications with the Public) requiring member firms to link to BrokerCheck on their landing page for retail investors, as well as “any other webpage that includes a professional profile of one or more registered persons who conduct business with retail investors,” went into effect June 6. The rule change, announced late last year in Regulatory Notice 15-50, requires “a readily apparent reference and hyperlink.” It does not prescribe specific language, but offers this non-exhaustive guidance: Firms “should adopt the perspective of a reasonable retail investor when making this determination. Some of the factors that firms should consider include: (1) placement (i.e., whether the reference and hyperlink are visible as soon as a person lands on the website or only after significant scrolling; if scrolling is required, whether it is clear that further information is available below the screen that is being viewed; the type of information that is in close proximity to the description and hyperlink; and whether the BrokerCheck reference and hyperlink are set out separately or buried in a long paragraph); (2) font size (i.e., whether the font size of the description and hyperlink are similar to the font size of other information on the page); and (3) font color (i.e., whether the font color of the description and hyperlink contrasts or blends in with the website’s background).” FINRA also singles out what not to do: “FINRA generally does not believe that including the required reference and hyperlink to BrokerCheck in a footer would satisfy the ‘readily apparent’ standard.”
We decided to circle back to see if and how firms are implementing the requirement, by perusing the Websites of a few representative national and regional firms, as well as online brokers: E*Trade, Edward Jones, J.P. Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Prudential, Raymond James, Schwab, and Wells Fargo. We focused on: 1) where the link was located on the firm’s Website; 2) specific language used; 3) what part of BrokerCheck linked to; and 4) anything else of note. The results are in the chart below:
BrokerCheck Link (Rule 2210 Compliance) - Different Approaches
As our chart shows, the firms we studied are all complying with the new rule, using options permitted by FINRA in its guidance to firms. We found the BrokerCheck links located mostly in the bottom half of firm Websites, but with some links in the bottom third and a few in the top or bottom quarters (ed: we used our best judgment to define location). Language was not uniform, but all firms used one version or another of the language suggested in FINRA’s guidance. Links mostly pointed to the main BrokerCheck landing page, but a few firms used the “deep link” option of going directly to the firm’s BrokerCheck record. Only one firm, Edward Jones, also used the BrokerCheck logo.
(ed: *So far, so good. FINRA’s approach is similar to SIPC’s, which in Bylaws Articles 10(2)(d) and (e) doesn’t mandate specific link placement but does set forth acceptable language. **As described on the FINRA Website, these requirements don’t apply to a member that does not provide products or services to retail investors, or to a directory or list of registered persons limited to names and contact information.)
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