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What is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is a non-governmental agency in the United States responsible for providing self-regulation within the financial industry. It oversees a wide scope of organizations involved in the industry, and advises government agencies on matters related to financial regulation and reform. The main offices are located in Washington, DC and New York City, with ready access both to the heart of the financial industry and the policy makers working in Washington. The organization also maintains a substantial web presence with materials for investors, brokers, and members of the general public.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority was founded in 2007 when the National Association of Securities Dealers merged with the regulation committee of the New York Stock Exchange. The agency sets and enforces policy for the financial industry, including overseeing regulation of securities dealers and brokers, setting standards for stock exchanges, and similar activities. Working with government agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, FINRA is involved in policy recommendations to the government, including recommendations for addressing changing practices in the financial industry.

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In addition to being involved in regulation and oversight of the industry, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority offers investor outreach and education. Investors can look up brokers and dealers through FINRA to get information on their history and qualifications, for example. The organization publishes educational material and offers classes for members of the investment community so they can learn about making sound investment decisions. In addition, FINRA works to improve investment education to keep participation in the markets safer. The organization also administers licensing exams required for many of the professions within the industry.

Like other organizations involved in self-regulation, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority responds to people within the industry, as well as critics outside it. The board of governors is drawn from people in the financial industry, some of whom are elected, and others who are appointed by nature of the positions they hold within the industry. Some critics of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority believe that setting the industry to regulate itself has some potentially dangerous consequences, as it can be difficult to address and suppress harmful behavior when it is widely accepted within the industry.

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