FINRA’s role in help­ing in­vestors.

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Sunday Business - JULIE JA­SON Julie Ja­son, JD, LLM, a per­sonal money man­ager ( Jack­son, Grant of Stam­ford) and au­thor, wel­comes your ques­tions/com­ments (read­ers@julie­ja­son.com). Her awards in­clude the 2018 Clar­ion Award, sym­bol­iz­ing ex­cel­lence in clear, con­cise com­mu­ni­cati

It’s great to have an on­line bro­ker­age ac­count. But what hap­pens if you need to reach a live per­son to help you with a prob­lem? And let’s say it’s a day like this past Thurs­day, with lots of ac­tion in the stock mar­ket. As re­ported by Lu Wang of Bloomberg, sell orders briefly hit the high­est level since a “liq­uid­ity-driven sell­off in May 2010.”

You call your bro­ker­age firm and are put on hold. That can be frus­trat­ing, but per­haps un­der­stand­able.

What about a dif­fer­ent type of frus­tra­tion? A reader from Con­necti­cut emailed me about the con­ver­sion of a tra­di­tional IRA to a Roth. A tra­di­tional IRA is taxde­ferred. A Roth IRA is tax-free. But to move from one to the other, in­come taxes will be trig­gered in most sit­u­a­tions.

The reader, whom I’ll call Tim, wrote:

“In May 2017, I con­verted sub­stan­tial se­cu­ri­ties, and (the in­sti­tu­tion) is­sued er­ro­neous 5498 and 1099-R tax state­ments. They fol­lowed with er­ro­neous fi­nan­cial state­ments. Af­ter six months of ar­gu­ments back and forth, (the in­sti­tu­tion) fi­nally is­sued cor­rected 5498 and 1099-R tax state­ments in April 2018 (the cor­rect­ing may have been mo­ti­vated by my seek­ing help from FINRA, who called the (in­sti­tu­tion’s) op­er­a­tional per­son I had been ar­gu­ing with).”

Prob­lem solved — how­ever, only af­ter a long and ar­du­ous process, and only af­ter reg­u­la­tors came to the res­cue. FINRA (the Fi­nan­cial In­dus­try Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity) reg­u­lates the bro­ker­age in­dus­try.

But, then a new prob­lem arose.

“Af­ter fil­ing for a tax ex­ten­sion, I re­quested and (the in­sti­tu­tion) de­clines, even re­fuses to cor­rect/is­sue new cor­re­spond­ing fi­nan­cial state­ments, which would back up my tax records.”

Tim asked: “What al­ter­na­tives/re­course do I have to (get) cor­rected fi­nan­cial state­ments?”

While Tim did not pro­vide me with the de­tails of the in­ac­cu­ra­cies, cus­tomers of bro­ker­age firms can and should ex­pect ac­cu­rate state­ments. That’s ba­sic.

With that sort of prob­lem to solve, I would ad­vise reach­ing out to le­gal and com­pli­ance of­fi­cers at the bro­ker­age firm. If that doesn’t work (it should), you go as far as fil­ing a com­plaint with FINRA’s In­vestor Com­plaint Cen­ter.

But, be­fore con­sid­er­ing a writ­ten com­plaint, be sure to read “In­vestor Com­plaint Pro­gram: What to Do When Prob­lems Arise,” which you can down­load at finra.org/ file/in­vestor-com­plaint­cen­ter-brochure. (If you send me an email, I will for­ward it to you.)

Also read finra.org/in­vestors/in­vestor-com­plaint­cen­ter, where you will find out about the types of prob­lems han­dled by FINRA ver­sus other reg­u­la­tors.

You can also reach out to FINRA for as­sis­tance. I spoke with FINRA spokesper­son, An­gelita Wil­liams, to re­view the best way to do that.

Any­one of any age can call FINRA’s Se­cu­ri­ties Helpline for Se­niors at 844574-3577 (Mon­day to Fri­day, 9 a.m-5 p.m. ET) for help. Wil­liams noted that: “FINRA call cen­ter staff are spe­cially trained to an­swer ques­tions rang­ing from the sim­ple to the more com­plex to help in­vestors make in­formed de­ci­sions.”

Again, there are no age lim­its. And there is only one man­date: to help peo­ple solve prob­lems.

A sec­ond op­tion is the FINRA In­vestor Com­plaint Cen­ter (240-386-4357). There you can get im­me­di­ate as­sis­tance and for guid­ance re­gard­ing the com­plaint process, ac­cord­ing to Wil­liams.

Luck­ily, frus­tra­tions and prob­lems are not ev­ery­day oc­cur­rences. When they hap­pen, it’s good to know there are re­sources that can help.

We’ll talk about this topic in fu­ture columns, as well as what to do if you can­not get res­o­lu­tion of a prob­lem. If you have a story that you’d like to share with read­ers of this col­umn, write to me at read­ers@julie­ja­son.com. Please in­clude your city and state.

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