September 29, 2009
With all due respect, this proposal smacks of kicking a beaten guy while he's down.
Seriously, in the wake of what arguably is the worst period in the securities industry in a long, long time, with revenues and profits down dramatically, FINRA's answer to their own budgetary issues is to raise their member firms' personnel and gross income assessments. This doesn't feel like the way membership organizations are supposed to operate. Am I missing something here?
FINRA's response to the worst business conditions in several generations seems eerily similar to the way state, local and municipal governments and their associated union personnel are responding to the economic crisis: rather than make commensurate sacrifices, they're crying out for higher taxes along with more stable, secure sources of revenue, etc.
Wouldn't we all like more stable, secure sources of revenue
But when you're a public servant - and FINRA is behaving much more like a public servant than the membership association it's supposed to be - your first order of business has to be to make do with less because it's the "public" you serve that ultimately keeps you in business. As the old saying goes, you can't squeeze blood out of a turnip.
Since industry participants are collectively feeling the sharp knife of substantially lower incomes, why isn't FINRA opting for a similar course of action, i.e., across-the-board paycuts, rather than shoving the knife deeper into their ultimate benefactors?
Moreover, the notion that FINRA "has a history of providing rebates to firms when revenues exceed the expenditures necessary to discharge its regulatory obligations," as stated in their Regulatory Notice 09-56, is absolutely poppycock.
The only regulatory rebates I'm aware of came in the very early part of this decade and were a direct result of a distribution of the profits associated with the spin-off of NASDAQ in 1999-2000. These multi-year rebates were offered as incentives for the membership to vote in favor of the transaction. Nothing more, nothing less.
Let's be clear about one thing. When times have been good, as they were a few years ago, regulatory fees and assessments were not reduced. FINRA's surplus profits were either retained by the company or paid out in substantial employee bonuses, or both. They were not rebated to the members.
Both the timing of and thesis for this proposal is a travesty and I strongly encourage you to vote against its implementation.