Investor Ed: How the SEC Handles Investor Complaints
The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an investor bulletin “Investor Complaints” to let investors know how the office handles reported issues and to suggest alternate routes investors can take to settle a securities-related dispute.
OIEA receives individual investor complaints against industry participants including brokers, investment advisers, transfer agents, and mutual funds. An OIEA Investor complaint form is available to report problems with investments or professionals involving the following:
- “Order handling, trade execution, or confirmations
- Delivery of funds or securities
- Fees, commissions, or mark-ups
- Inaccurate or misleading disclosures by financial professionals
- Suitability, or excessive trading or other account abuses
- Opening, transferring, or closing an account
- Redeeming or transferring mutual funds”
Note: To provide the SEC with information about fraud involving potential violations of the federal securities laws, use the Tips, Complaints and Referrals Portal.
Do send OIEA copies of docs you believe helpful, but don’t send originals.
- Email to: email@example.com
- Fax to: (202) 772-9295
- Mail to: US Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Investor Education and Advocacy
100 F Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20549-0213
Process for Handling Complaints
OIEA’s function is to ensure that those regulated by the SEC respond to investor complaints whenever appropriate. If an investor consents, OIEA will forward a complaint, requesting that the involved person or firm send a written report to both OIEA and the investor regarding the issues. But know the SEC will not act as an investor’s attorney.
OIEA may refer an investor complaint to other Offices or Divisions within the SEC, including the Division of Enforcement, which conducts investigations on a confidential basis. As such, “OIEA will not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation and will not update an investor on the status of a complaint.”
Use of Complaint Information
OIEA aims to resolve investor complaints, but OIEA may also share the info with other SEC divisions or externally to assist the SEC to “determine whether an entity or person is complying with, or has violated, the federal securities laws or certain rules, and civil or administrative proceedings. The SEC often makes its files, including complaint information, available to other government agencies.”
- See SEC Web Site Privacy and Security Policy on how OIEA may use investor complaint info.
Other Options for Resolving a Complaint
Investors have rights. And federal and state securities laws provides remedies applicable to certain disputes involving those persons or entities regulated by the SEC. Investors may resolve a complaint through the courts, arbitration, or mediation. If an investor can’t hire a lawyer, a law school arbitration/mediation clinic may be able resolve a securities-related dispute at no cost. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) may also help.
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