Guide to Broker-Dealer Regulation

The readings from Lofchie et al. for this week discuss numerous examples of potential conflicts of interest facing broker-dealer (BD) firms, market centers, mutual fund managers, and other market participants.  Rules by the SEC, FINRA, and other regulators try to prevent these conflicts of interest from harming investors.  For example:

  • In their capacities as brokers, BD firms discover relatively rapidly the flow of orders from customers, but then the dealing/trading units of BD firms—knowing that much more about market direction—may want to trade ahead of the BD firms’ customers (“Front Running”). This means that the BD firms’ orders themselves change the market in advance of their executing the customers’ orders. The customers may end up paying more for securities, or selling securities for less, than the customers would otherwise.
  • Market centers and broker-dealer firms want to attract customer orders to increase their volume of business.They thus might want to provide inducements to market participants who control large flows of customer orders—like mutual fund managers—to send the market centers and BD firms the mutual funds’ orders. However, then the mutual funds may come to base their decisions on where to send orders more on these financial inducements than on where the customers will receive the best execution; and/or, the BD firm may try to sell some mutual funds to customers more aggressively because the managers of those mutual funds send the BD firms a large volume of orders (“Soft Dollars Payment for Order Flow, and Other Inducements to Obtain Transactional Business.”).

Topic:The management of conflicts of interest thus is a central regulatory issue in financial market regulation. FINRA’s October 2013 Report on Conflicts of Interest discusses the management of conflict of interests. How are conflicts of interest managed in this field? In your papers you may discuss the central issues reviewed in FINRA’s report. How are the approaches to the management of conflicts of interest reflected in examples of regulation discussed in the readings from Lofchie et al. assigned for this week? You can use the FINRA report to structure your answer, but make sure to show how the principles reviewed by FINRA apply to examples of conflicts of interest discussed in the Guide to Broker-Dealer Regulation.


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