In response to the outbreak of COVID-19, FINRA has announced that most FINRA staff will be working remotely, but will utilize remote work capabilities to remain “fully operational.” FINRA has also published guidance on its website regarding narrow regulatory relief, business continuity, arbitration, mediation, and disciplinary hearings, membership applications, FINRA-administered exams, events, and investor strategy.

Specifically, FINRA has issued the following guidance:

  1. FINRA is providing temporary relief from Rule 1010(c)’s requirement that initial and transfer Form U4 filings bear manual (wet) signatures, permitting electronic filing if the applicant is provided a copy of the completed Form U4 before filing, the applicant provides, and the firm retains, a written acknowledgement from the applicant (which may be electronic) prior to filing, and a manual signature is obtained as soon as practicable.
  2. A Uniform Practice Advisory Notice, Regulatory Notice, and Technical Notice regarding business continuity objectives as firms and FINRA cope with the effects of COVID-19, including the importance of remaining vigilant against cyber threats as firms assume a work-from-home posture.
  3. In-person mediations and arbitrations scheduled through May 1, 2020 have been postponed, and FINRA staff will contact parties to reschedule. However, all case deadlines will continue to apply unless parties jointly agree otherwise.
  4. Office of Hearing Officers (“OHO”) disciplinary hearings scheduled through April have been postponed, with the exception of Expedited Proceedings as they are not conducted in person. While working remotely, OHO will serve and accept service of notices, pleadings, and other documents by email.  Parties with questions should contact their Case Administrator.
  5. Pre-filing meetings and membership interviews for new and continuing membership applications will be conducted via video conference, and FINRA will grant a courtesy extension on your new or continuing membership application, if needed.
  6. Prometric closed its test centers in the United States and Canada for 30 days beginning March 18, 2020. Candidates with existing appointments will be contacted with rescheduling instructions. FINRA recommends that candidates with appointments scheduled April 16th or later review the Prometric website for further information. FINRA will be extending currently open enrollment windows to May 31, 2020.
  7. FINRA has canceled the West Region Member Forum and postponed the 2020 Diversity Summit and will contact registrants with a new date as soon as it is determined.
  8. Investor guidance regarding maintaining “Financial Peace of Mind in the Age of Coronavirus.”

While FINRA has taken steps to cancel or postpone in-person events, consistent with current government guidance on social distancing, it remains committed to utilizing technology to otherwise maintain business-as-usual, both in terms of carrying out its regulatory responsibilities and electronically administering arbitration, mediation, and disciplinary actions.  In that part of FINRA’s COVID-19 guidance focuses upon business continuity planning and cybersecurity, firms are advised to administer a self-assessment in these areas.

For more legal insights visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) page.

*This alert is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and is not intended to form an attorney client relationship.  Please contact your Sheppard Mullin attorney contact for additional information.*