The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) filed a complaint against brokerage firm SWS Financial Services, Inc. (SWS Financial) over allegations that from September 2009, to May 2011, SWS Financial had inadequate supervisory systems procedures to supervise its variable annuity (VA) securities business. Specifically, FINRA alleged that SWS Financial: (1) failed to establish and maintain supervisory systems to supervise its VA securities business in violation of NASD and FINRA Rules; (2) failed to implement rules requiring a registered principal review and approval prior to transmission of a VA application to the issuing insurance company for processing and that a registered principal only approve VA transactions that he or she has determined that there is a reasonable basis to believe that the transaction is suitable for the customer; (3) failed to implement surveillance procedures to monitor a broker’s recommended exchanges of VAs to identify inappropriate exchanges; (4) failed to have policies and procedures to implement corrective measures to address inappropriate VA exchanges; and (5) failed to develop and document specific training policies or programs to ensure that principals supervisors who reviewed VA transactions had sufficient knowledge to monitor the transactions.
SWS Financial is a registered broker/dealer since 1986 and is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. The firm employs 313 registered personnel. From September 2009, to May 2011, SWS Financial derived the majority of its income from its business lines selling equities, mutual funds, variable life insurance or annuities, and municipal securities.
FINRA alleged that from September 2009, to May 2011, SWS Financial derived 16% to 20% of its total revenues from sales of VAs to customers. However, despite this fact, FINRA alleged that SWS Financial failed to establish and implement adequate supervisory systems for this aspect of its securities business. FINRA alleged that the firm’s brokers sold VAs both in branch offices where a registered branch manager was onsite as well as in offices where there was no onsite supervisor. FINRA alleged that the firms procedures required that VA transactions initiated by representatives in branch offices with a branch manager were reviewed and approved by the banch manager and then forwarded to SWS Financial’s home office for final review and approval employees at an affiliated insurance company, Southwest Insurance Agency (Insurance Agency).