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. Investment Advisers and Broker/Dealer

1 Investment Adviser Public Disclosure (IAPD), This search tool enables you to check out SEC- and state-registered investment adviser firms and the individuals who work for them. You can find registration status, background information (such as the firm’s business practices, fees, conflicts of interest, and disciplinary history, and an individual’s qualifications and employment history). You can also read a firm’s registration form, called "Form ADV," which has two parts. IAPD will redirect you to BrokerCheck as needed for information on brokers and brokerage firms.
  •  Form ADV Part 1 contains information about the adviser's business and whether the adviser has had problems with regulators or clients.
  •  Form ADV 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.
2 BrokerCheck, FINRA’s database is a free tool to help you research the professional backgrounds of current and former FINRA-registered brokerage firms and brokers. BrokerCheck will redirect you to IAPD as needed for information on advisory firms and the individuals who work for them. Through BrokerCheck, investors can:
  •  Find background information for individual brokers such as industry exams passed, previous employment, customer disputes, and regulatory or disciplinary events.
  •  Find background information on brokerage firms such as history (including any mergers, acquisitions or name changes), licenses and registrations, arbitration awards, and regulatory or disciplinary events.
3 Professional Designations Database, Before you engage an investment professional, make sure you research—and understand—the professional designations they use.
4 State Securities Regulators, You can obtain additional information on investment professionals from your state securities regulator.
5 Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), 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 works to restore investors’ cash and securities when their brokerage firm fails. SIPC provides limited customer protection if a brokerage firm becomes insolvent. 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), 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. It also includes filings for mutual funds, exchange traded funds (ETFs) and variable insurance products.

III. Commodities/Futures

1 Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC), BASIC is a free tool from the National Futures Association (NFA). BASIC 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, 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.
3 CFTC SmartCheck, Before you engage an investment professional or purchase commodities, make sure you research and verify all information.

IV. Municipal Bonds

1 Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA), EMMA is a free resource by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) that makes available copies of 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:

Updated Investor Bulletin: How to Check Out Your Investment Professional