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Ask and Check

Before you engage an investment professional or purchase securities, make sure you research and verify all information.  There are several tools available.

I. Broker/Dealer and Investment Advisers

  1. BrokerCheck, http://www.finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck/is a free tool to help investors research the professional backgrounds of current and former FINRA-registered brokerage firms and brokers, as well as investment adviser firms and representatives. It should be the first resource investors turn to when choosing whether to do business or continue to do business with a particular firm or individual.  Through BrokerCheck, investors can
  • Search for information about brokers and brokerage firms
  • Search for information about investment adviser firms and representatives
  • Obtain online background reports, if available.
  1. Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD) http://www.adviserinfo.sec.gov/IAPD/Content/IapdMain/iapd_SiteMap.aspxEnables you to search for an individual investment adviser representative and also to find out about an investment adviser firm and whether it is properly registered, read its registration form, called "Form ADV." Form ADV has two parts.
  • Part 1 contains information about the adviser's business and whether the adviser has had problems with regulators or clients.
  • Part 2 referred to as the “brochure,” which advisers must provide to prospective clients initially and to existing clients annually. The brochure describes, in a narrative format, the adviser’s business practices, fees, conflicts of interest, and disciplinary information.
  1. Professional Designations Database, http://apps.finra.org/DataDirectory/1/prodesignations.aspxBefore you engage an investment professional, make sure you research—and understand—the professional designations they use.
  1. State Securities Regulators, http://www.nasaa.org/about-us/contact-us/contact-your-regulator/  You can obtain additional information on investment professionals from your state securities regulator.
  2. Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), http://www.sipc.com/Who/Database.aspx If you plan to do business with a brokerage firm, you should find out whether the brokerage firm and its clearing firm are members of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). SIPC provides limited customer protection if a brokerage firm becomes insolvent — although it does not insure against losses attributable to a decline in the market value of your securities. If you've placed your cash or securities in the hands of a non-SIPC member, you may not be eligible for SIPC coverage if the firm goes out of business.

II. Securities

  1. EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval) http://sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/webusers.htm The SEC’s database provides free public access to corporate information. The system allows you to research a company’s activities, registration statements, prospectuses, and periodic reports, which include financial statements

III. Commodities/Futures

  1. Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC) http://www.nfa.futures.org/basicnet/ is a free tool from the National Futures Association (NFA).  BASICX contains Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) registration and NFA membership information and futures-related regulatory and non-regulatory actions contributed by NFA, the CFTC and the U.S. futures exchanges.  You can search by NFA ID number, firm name, individual name, or pool name.
  2. US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Disciplinary History, http://www.cftc.gov/ConsumerProtection/DisciplinaryHistory/index.htm CFTC disciplinary history is made available as part of the agency's ongoing effort to protect market participants and the public from fraud, manipulation, and abusive practices. CFTC disciplinary history available includes Reparations Sanctions in Effect and Administrative Sanctions in Effect. You can search CFTC disciplinary history by respondent name, other names used by respondent, CFTC docket number, or National Futures Association ID.

IV. Municipal Bonds

  1. Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA)  http://emma.msrb.org/Search/Search.aspx is a free resource by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) that makes available copies of official statements, preliminary official statements and advance refunding documents submitted to the MSRB by broker-dealers and banks that underwrite new issues of municipal securities. In addition, EMMA makes available copies of continuing disclosure documents submitted to the MSRB by municipal issuers and other obligors on municipal securities.

Additional Resources: