April 25, 2020
Among the more asinine allegations in a recent FINRA AWC is that a financial professional needed to tell another financial professional that there are "challenges" in entering into a deal involving the cannabis industry. Worse, the investment advisor allegedly in need of such a disclosure never personally invested or arranged for any investment. We got potential resting on possibility precariously perched atop conjecture and speculation.
For Wall Street pundit Aegis Frumento, old habits die hard. But new habits replace them. Already, while social distancing at home, Frumento has gotten used to meeting people as disembodied faces and voices on a screen. He misses going to a bar for a drink, to a restaurant for a good meal, seeing his friends, commuting to his office, and ambling around the crowded, noisy Manhattan of his memory. On the other hand, Frumento has finally mastered sourdough, and gotten to see birds do what birds do while they do it (but not bees, yet). There's something deadly in the air. We're living with that everyday. On the other hand, there's also a new "normal" in the air. We're going to live with that everyday too.
It has come to Guest Blogger Stephen Kohn's attention that some FINRA Staff have been "demanding" that Rule 8210 On The Record interviews be conducted by ZOOM or teleconferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those subject to the Staff's OTR demand are being told that they must cooperate and agree to a scheduled ZOOM interview even if the witness and his/her attorney are unable to conduct the interview while both are in the same room. Who cares that an associated person took ill with the virus, spent weeks in isolation, and is now told that they may be cited for a "Rule" violation for not being able to appear for an OTR or comply with demands for document production? Stephen Kohn cares! You should care, too!
During the COVID-19 pandemic, much (but not all) of Wall Street regulation has come to a grinding halt. In addition to self-, local-, and federal-regulatory staffs forced to work from their homes, many of their subjects and targets are similarly dislocated. The constraints of self quarantining and working from home make a whole host of difficulties in terms of initiating investigations, conducting them, and filing complaints -- on top of that, the demands of Due Process present further challenges in these plague times. One of the unforeseen consequences of this ongoing health crisis is that the Securities and Exchange Commission seems to be making an effort to clean up its reputed back-log of Whistleblower WB-APPs, which were filed by claimants seeking Awards for their successful tips. Perhaps unburdened by the typical daily workload of an active regulatory roster, the SEC appears to be working through the numerous claims stuffed in its pipeline, although, at best, the output has been a trickle -- but even that is a flood in comparison to what we are accustomed to see.
In Charles Dickens' "Bleak House," we come across the epic lawsuit of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, which starts off with an inheritance that slowly but surely is depleted by legal costs. As we have reported in the Broke And Broker Blog, disappointed beneficiaries often insist that a decedent must have done X -- and if the decedent didn't, well, you know, the stockbroker or brokerage firm is at fault because they should have insisted that X be done. Of course, human nature and relationships (both marital and otherwise) being what they are, sometimes folks do inexplicable things for reasons that they take to the grave with them.