The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) oversees the registration of broker-dealers, individuals or firms engaged in buying and selling securities. This registration ensures adherence to federal securities laws and SEC rules, safeguarding market integrity and investor confidence.
Chair Gary Gensler recently provided clarity on the amendments to Rule 15b9-1, a specific regulation concerning the registration requirements for broker-dealers with national securities associations like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Established in the 1960s and last significantly updated in 1976, the rule is being amended to better reflect the current landscape of the capital markets.
Rule 15b9-1 was crafted to allow a subset of exchange floor members to bypass membership with the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), the predecessor to FINRA. This exemption was tailored for broker-dealers primarily registered with a single exchange, conducting floor business, and meeting other specific criteria.
However, the dynamics of the market have undergone significant changes since then. With the rise of high-frequency trading and the proliferation of cross-exchange or off-exchange activities by many broker-dealers, there’s been a noticeable shift. Some broker-dealers still operate under an exemption from national securities association registration that predates even the advent of mobile phones. This has resulted in a regulatory void, with several firms that have monthly trading volumes in the ballpark of hundreds of billions of dollars escaping the purview of national securities association oversight.
The newly introduced amendments aim to redefine and restrict the conditions under which broker-dealers can sidestep registration with a national securities association. This move is anticipated to bolster consistent and rigorous oversight, especially in the realms of cross-market and off-exchange activities. Mandatory membership in national securities associations for a significant number of these previously exempt firms is expected to amplify transparency and oversight, particularly in the Treasury markets.
Such measures are projected to be advantageous for investors, promoting markets that are fair, orderly, and efficient.
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