The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA") has a "Taping Rule," which requires a securities firm to adopt significant monitoring measures when too many of its brokers have recently worked for a "Disciplined Firm." From May 2005 through March 2009, Neil Aslin worked at Brewer Financial, which became a "Disciplined Firm" on March 5, 2011 when it agreed to settle a private-security-offering disciplinary matter with its expulsion; however, at the time that Brewer Financial became a "Disciplined Firm," Aslin was not employed there.
In April 2009, Aslin joined BEST Direct, and FINRA notified that firm that it had become subject to the Taping Rule because 11 of its 17 registered brokers had worked within the prior three years for the Disciplined Firm Brewer Financial. On May 4, 2011, BEST Direct fired Aslin (and presumably a few other former Brewer Financial brokers) to avoid instituting the monitoring system.
Alleging that FINRA had violated his Fifth Amendment right to due process by subjecting him to the"Disciplined Firm" criterion, Aslin sought declaratory and injunctive relief to stop FINRA from including him on the list. The district court dismissed the case, concluding that Aslin failed to state a claim because he was not deprived of a property or liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
In Neil J. Aslin v. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (7th Circuit, 12-2250, January 2, 2013), the 7th Circuit deemed the case moot when the district court issued its April 2012 decision because the controversy had, in fact, ended in March 2012, after which Aslin was no longer included on the list. Accordingly, the Circuit vacated the lower court's opinion and modified it to a dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
In issuing its Opinion, the Circuit Court offered this rationale at pages 8 and 11:
Aslin contends, however, that the alleged violation of his due process rights is continuing to cause him harm that this suit may remedy. He contends that the rule caused him to be terminated from his employment, and that he has not yet been reinstated or found other work as a broker. He also claims that this fact will make it more difficult for him to get employment in the future. But these injuries, significant though they may be, could not be remedied by the relief sought in this case. A declaration that a rule not currently being applied to Aslin violates his due process rights does not address the problem of lingering harm from the actions of private persons. Such a declaration would not require BEST Direct to rehire Aslin or prohibit a prospective employer from considering the fact that he was fired because of the Taping Rule.
. . .
[S]uch expulsions and bars seem to be unusual events. Aslin has not shown that they occur with such frequency as to create a "reasonable expectation" that Aslin himself will be subject to the rule again. Accordingly, there is no reasonable expectation of repetition, and the dispute here cannot avoid dismissal as moot on the theory that it is capable of repetition yet evading review.
SIDE BAR: FINRA Rule 3010(b)(2):
(2) Tape recording of conversations
(A) Each member that either is notified by NASD or otherwise has actual knowledge that it meets one of the criteria in paragraph (b)(2)(H) relating to the employment history of its registered persons at a Disciplined Firm as defined in paragraph (b)(2)(J) shall establish, maintain, and enforce special written procedures for supervising the telemarketing activities of all of its registered persons.
(B) The member must establish and implement the supervisory procedures required by this paragraph within 60 days of receiving notice from NASD or obtaining actual knowledge that it is subject to the provisions of this paragraph.
A member that meets one of the criteria in paragraph (b)(2)(H) for the first time may reduce its staffing levels to fall below the threshold levels within 30 days after receiving notice from NASD pursuant to the provisions of paragraph (b)(2)(A) or obtaining actual knowledge that it is subject to the provisions of the paragraph, provided the firm promptly notifies the Department of Member Regulation, NASD, in writing of its becoming subject to the Rule. Once the member has reduced its staffing levels to fall below the threshold levels, it shall not rehire a person terminated to accomplish the staff reduction for a period of 180 days. On or prior to reducing staffing levels pursuant to this paragraph, a member must provide the Department of Member Regulation, NASD with written notice, identifying the terminated person(s).
(C) The procedures required by this paragraph shall include tape-recording all telephone conversations between the member's registered persons and both existing and potential customers.
(D) The member shall establish reasonable procedures for reviewing the tape recordings made pursuant to the requirements of this paragraph to ensure compliance with applicable securities laws and regulations and applicable rules of NASD. The procedures must be appropriate for the member's business, size, structure, and customers.
(E) All tape recordings made pursuant to the requirements of this paragraph shall be retained for a period of not less than three years from the date the tape was created, the first two years in an easily accessible place. Each member shall catalog the retained tapes by registered person and date.
(F) Such procedures shall be maintained for a period of three years from the date that the member establishes and implements the procedures required by the provisions of this paragraph.
(G) By the 30th day of the month following the end of each calendar quarter, each member firm subject to the requirements of this paragraph shall submit to NASD a report on the member's supervision of the telemarketing activities of its registered persons.
(H) The following members shall be required to adopt special supervisory procedures over the telemarketing activities of their registered persons:
A firm with at least five but fewer than ten registered persons, where 40% or more of its registered persons have been associated with one or more Disciplined Firms in a registered capacity within the last three years;
A firm with at least ten but fewer than twenty registered persons, where four or more of its registered persons have been associated with one or more Disciplined Firms in a registered capacity within the last three years;
A firm with at least twenty registered persons, where 20% or more of its registered persons have been associated with one or more Disciplined Firms in a registered capacity within the last three years.
For purposes of the calculations required in subparagraph (H), firms should not include registered persons who: (1) have been registered for an aggregate total of 90 days or less with one or more Disciplined Firms within the past three years; and (2) do not have a disciplinary history.
(I) For purposes of this Rule, the term "registered person" means any person registered with NASD as a representative, principal, or assistant representative pursuant to the Rule 1020, 1030, 1040, and 1110 Series or pursuant to Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board ("MSRB") Rule G-3.
(J) For purposes of this Rule, the term "disciplined firm" means either a member that, in connection with sales practices involving the offer, purchase, or sale of any security, has been expelled from membership or participation in any securities industry self-regulatory organization or is subject to an order of the Securities and Exchange Commission revoking its registration as a broker/dealer; or a futures commission merchant or introducing broker that has been formally charged by either the Commodity Futures Trading Commission or a registered futures association with deceptive telemarketing practices or promotional material relating to security futures, those charges have been resolved, and the futures commission merchant or introducing broker has been closed down and permanently barred from the futures industry as a result of those charges; or a futures commission merchant or introducing broker that, in connection with sales practices involving the offer, purchase, or sale of security futures is subject to an order of the Securities and Exchange Commission revoking its registration as a broker or dealer.
(K) For purposes of this Rule, the term "disciplinary history" means a finding of a violation by a registered person in the past five years by the Securities and Exchange Commission, a self-regulatory organization, or a foreign financial regulatory authority of one or more of the provisions (or comparable foreign provision) listed in IM-1011-1 or rules or regulations thereunder.
(L) Pursuant to the Rule 9600 Series, NASD may in exceptional circumstances, taking into consideration all relevant factors, exempt any member unconditionally or on specified terms and conditions from the requirements of this paragraph. A member seeking an exemption must file a written application pursuant to the Rule 9600 Series within 30 days after receiving notice from NASD or obtaining actual knowledge that it meets one of the criteria in paragraph (b)(2)(H). A member that meets one of the criteria in paragraph (b)(2)(H) for the first time may elect to reduce its staffing levels pursuant to the provisions of paragraph (b)(2)(B) or, alternatively, to seek an exemption pursuant to paragraph (b)(2)(L), as appropriate; such a member may not seek relief from the Rule by both reducing its staffing levels pursuant to paragraph (b)(2)(B) and requesting an exemption.