Investor Bulletin: Investor Complaints
March 25, 2016
The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) is issuing this Investor Bulletin to inform investors about how OIEA handles investor complaints and other ways investors may be able to resolve a securities-related dispute.
Types of Complaints
OIEA receives many types of complaints from individual investors, including complaints against brokers, brokerage firms, investment advisers, transfer agents, mutual funds, and other market participants. You can submit an investor complaint form to OIEA to report problems with investments, an investment account, or a financial professional, including problems involving:
- Order handling, trade execution, or confirmations;
- Delivery of funds or securities;
- Fees, commissions, or mark-ups;
- Inaccurate or misleading disclosures by financial professionals;
- Opening, transferring, or closing an account, or redeeming or transferring mutual funds; and
- 401(k) accounts, pension plans, or other retirement accounts.
You also may send OIEA copies of documents, letters, and other materials you believe would be helpful in understanding your complaint, but do not send originals. The copies may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed to (202) 772-9295, or mailed to U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of Investor Education and Advocacy, 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20549-0213.
OIEA will inform you when it receives your complaint and will note the file number assigned to your complaint. You should reference this file number when contacting OIEA.
Process for Handling Complaints
OIEA helps ensure that individuals and entities regulated by the SEC respond to investor complaints when appropriate. If an investor selects the option on the complaint form consenting to OIEA’s sending the complaint to the firm (“Yes, send the form to the firm….”), OIEA typically forwards the complaint, requesting the firm to send a written report to the investor and to OIEA that addresses the issues raised.
OIEA may refer an investor complaint to other Offices or Divisions within the SEC, including the Division of Enforcement. The Division of Enforcement generally conducts investigations on a confidential basis. As a result, 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’s principal use of information from an investor complaint is to resolve the complaint, but OIEA may also share the information with other Offices and Divisions in the SEC or outside of the SEC where appropriate. Records and information may be disclosed outside the SEC pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552a(b) for multiple purposes, including to assist with SEC examinations and enforcement to determine whether an entity or person is complying with, or has violated, the federal securities laws or certain rules. The SEC often makes its files, including complaint information, available to other government agencies.
Complaint information submitted to OIEA is subject to Privacy Act System of Records Notice SEC-65 (SORN SEC 65, Investor Response Information System), which is published and updated regularly. Read SEC Web Site Privacy and Security Policy to learn more about how OIEA may use information from investor complaints.
Other Options for Resolving a Complaint
Federal and state securities laws provide investors with important legal rights and remedies that may apply to a dispute with an individual or entity regulated by the SEC. You can seek to resolve a complaint through the courts, arbitration, or mediation.
You may want to hire a lawyer who specializes in securities law. If you cannot afford a lawyer, a law school arbitration/mediation clinic may be able to help you resolve a securities-related dispute free of charge.
In some cases, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc. (FINRA) can help you resolve a conflict with a financial services professional. To learn more, read Initiate an Arbitration or Mediation.
To ask a question or report a problem concerning your investments, your investment account or a financial professional, contact us online or call the SEC’s toll-free investor assistance line at (800) 732-0330 (if outside of the U.S., call 1-202-551-6551).
Visit Investor.gov, the SEC’s website for individual investors.