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Court Rules in Favor of SEC withholding FINRA Records from Public

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On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that the SEC had no requirement to publicly release records of their oversight of FINRA.

The Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association had sued the SEC after the agency refused to produce certain FINRA related records against a request under the Freedom of Information Act. The decision came as a blow to them for it may indicate reduction of options for investors to learn about the diligence of the SEC in overseeing FINRA activities.

The PIA Bar Association, in this case, had sought to learn about SEC inspection reports over the selection and replacement of arbitrators at the FINRA. They made the request in February 2010.

  
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The SEC office said that it has 65 boxes of materials related to the request; however, the records were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act’s scope as they pertain to regulations of financial institutions.

The association appealed the SEC’s decision, lost the appeal and then filed the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, on Thursday, the court observed that SEC’s justification for withholding the records were valid, and the judge wrote, “All the records relating to the SEC’s examination reports – including reports related to the administrative function of FINRA – are exempt from disclosure under FOIA.”

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FINRA, or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is a self-policing body of the brokerage industry that is overseen by the SEC. FINRA does regular inspection of brokerages, brings enforcement actions and holds arbitrations to settle disputes between investors and brokers. The SEC ensures that the FINRA complies with relevant rules and regulations.

The PIA Bar Association is a lawyers’ group, which represents investors in securities arbitration matters.



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