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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

California joins multistate settlement with securities brokerage

State Issues Securities State Regulators California DFPI Settlement

State Issues

On April 6, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) joined a multi-state settlement with a securities brokerage company stemming from an investigation spearheaded by state securities regulators from Alabama, Colorado, California, Delaware, New Jersey, South Dakota, and Texas relating to certain alleged operational and technical failures. According to DFPI, the investigation was triggered by a March 2020 incident in which the brokerage company experienced several platform outages during a period in which hundreds of thousands of investors relied on the company’s app to make trades, thus preventing some users from being able to process trades. The settlement order sets out multiple alleged violations by the brokerage company, including negligently disseminating inaccurate information to customers, failing to have a “reasonably designed customer identification program,” inadequately supervising critical technology, having a deficient system for dealing with customer inquiries, failing to exercise due diligence before approving certain option accounts, and failing to report all customer complaints to FINRA and state securities regulators.

While the company neither admitted nor denied the findings, it agreed to pay up to $10.2 million in penalties and will continue to implement recommendations to address the alleged misconduct. DFPI noted in its announcement that it “found no evidence of willful or fraudulent conduct” by the company, and said the company fully cooperated with the investigation.