FINRA Issues New Rules on Securities Borrowing, Customer Protection and Callable Securities

by Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP

On December 4, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved rules proposed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority regarding securities loans and borrowings, permissible use of customers’ securities, and callable securities. For securities loans and borrowings, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority proposed new Rule 4314, which requires a member firm acting as an agent in a securities lending or borrowing transaction to disclose its capacity as agent. The rule aims to clarify whether parties are acting as principals or agents when entering into security lending or borrowing agreements. When member firms loan securities to or borrow securities from a counterparty acting in an agency capacity, the rule requires the member firm to maintain books and records to reflect the details of the transaction with the agent and each principal on whose behalf the agent is acting as well as the details of the transaction. The rule allows a member firm that is a party to a loan or borrowing agreement with another member firm to liquidate the transaction whenever the other party becomes subject to one of the specified liquidation conditions. Additionally, no member firm can lend or borrow any security to or from any person that is not a member of FINRA, including any customer, except pursuant to a written agreement. Each member firm subject to Securities Exchange Act Rule 15c3-3 that borrows fully paid or excess margin securities from a customer must comply with the Securities Exchange Act Rule 15c3-3 requirements for a written agreement between the borrowing member firm and lending customer.

FINRA also adopted new Rule 4330 regarding the permissible use of customers’ securities. The rule prohibits a member firm from lending securities held on margin for a customer that are eligible to be pledged or loaned unless the member firm first obtains written authorization from the customer permitting the lending arrangement. The rule also requires a member firm that borrows fully paid or excess margin securities carried for a customer account to comply with Securities Exchange Act Rule 15c3-3, provide notices to customers in compliance with Securities Exchange Act Section 15(e), and notify FINRA at least 30 days prior to the borrowing. Before any member firm engages in a securities borrowing transaction with a customer, the rule requires the member firm to have reasonable grounds for believing that the customer’s loan of securities is appropriate for its financial situation and needs and that the member firm provide certain disclosures to the customer in writing. A FINRA member firm is also required to keep books and records evidencing compliance with these rules.

Finally, FINRA adopted new Rule 4340 to clarify requirements applicable to callable securities. The rule requires each member firm with possession or control of a callable security, in the event of a partial redemption or call, to identify such securities and establish an impartial lottery system to allocate the securities among its customers. The member firm must also provide written notice, which may be electronic, to new customers opening an account and to all customers once a year that describes how customers may access the allocation procedures on the member firm’s website or obtain hard copies upon request. The rule prohibits a member firm from allocating securities to its own or an associated person’s account during a redemption until all other customers’ positions have been satisfied. This prohibition applies only when the redemption is offered on terms favorable to the called parties. When on unfavorable terms, a member firm cannot exclude its positions or those of its associated persons from the redemption.

The proposed rules with links to amendments, comments, and the approval order may be accessed here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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