The enforcement mission of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is, by design, a public one. Not only does it publicize the filing, settlement and adjudication of cases it brings against regulated persons and entities, it also regularly communicates with its membership and the public regarding its goals. As such, there are two basic sources of information about examination and enforcement priorities. The first source is FINRA’s annual examination priorities letter. The second source is the information FINRA makes public about its disciplinary actions.

The Priorities: The Examinations Priorities Letter

On Jan. 11, 2013, FINRA published its examination priorities letter for the coming year. This year’s letter is significantly more focused and shorter than prior letters. The letter identifies 18 areas that will be the focus of FINRA’s examinations and enforcement efforts, grouped into four major categories, each of which is discussed below. Amid the tried and true general areas of attention such as retail investor suitability, which is perennially on its list FINRA has added some very specific priorities, such as the use of “kill switches,” as a failsafe against extreme trading events, which are more pointed than any prior guidance.