Legal & Regulatory

Regulatory Authority Fines Morgan Stanley $1.5 Million For Broken Link

December 7
5:55 AM 2016

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. fined Morgan Stanley Smith Barney $1.5 million for a broken online link that prevented customers from having an access to fund prospectuses.

In a period of nine months, the technical failure of the firm caused around 2.1 million prospectuses to be inaccessible to online customers, according to a report that appeared in Investment News.

Before 2013, Morgan Stanley made prospectuses available to clients online. The Finra settlement stated that Morgan Stanley updated its systems in November 2013. However, it failed to ensure the installation of an appropriate online link for clients who wanted to review certain fund prospectuses.

It was in August 2014 that the firm learned about the broken link when a customer contacted the firm. The customer was seeking to view an online prospectus but found that the link was not present.

Finra reported that Morgan Stanley also failed to generate and send around 23,500 investment objective letters to clients from November 2013 to December 2014.

Under the industry rules, broker-dealers are required to confirm customers via writing any changes made on the investment objectives within 30 days of such a change.

Another ground for the fine was when the firm failed to send at least 4,000 letters to customers confirming changes in their investment objectives within 30 days of the change in June 2012 to June 2016.

"The settlement recognized Morgan Stanley's extraordinary cooperation in identifying and quickly resolving the prospectus issue, and further recognized that prospectuses were available elsewhere on MS Online, and client profile information continued to be reflected on account statements," said Morgan Stanley spokeswoman Christine Jockle.

The firm was created in the midst of the mortgage crisis in 2009 by combining the wealth management group of Morgan Stanley & Co. and the Smith Barney division of Citigroup Global Markets. The remaining interest of Citigroup was purchased by Morgan Stanley in 2013.

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