The Securities and Exchange Commission adopted amendments to the financial responsibility requirements for broker dealers under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) designed to safeguard customer securities and funds held by broker dealers. Such requirements include Exchange Act Rule 15c3-1 (Net Capital Rule), Rule 15c3-3 (Customer Protection Rule), Rules 17a-3 and 17a-4 (together, Books and Records Rules) and Rule 17a-11 (Notification Rule, and together with the Net Capital Rule, the Customer Protection Rule and the Books and Records Rules, the Financial Responsibility Rules).

The SEC amended the Customer Protection Rule to: (1) require “carrying broker dealers” that maintain customer securities and funds to maintain new segregated reserve accounts for account holders that are broker dealers; (2) place certain restrictions on cash bank deposits for purposes of the requirement to maintain a reserve to protect customer cash, by excluding cash deposits held at affiliated banks and limiting cash held at non-affiliated banks to an amount no greater than 15 percent of the bank’s equity capital, as reported by the bank in its most recent call report; and (3) establish customer disclosure, notice and affirmative consent requirements (for new accounts) for programs where customer cash in a securities account is “swept” to a money market or bank deposit product.

The SEC amended the Net Capital Rule to: (1) require a broker dealer when calculating net capital to include any liabilities that are assumed by a third party if the broker dealer cannot demonstrate that the third party has the resources to pay the liabilities; (2) require a broker dealer to treat as a liability any capital that is contributed under an agreement giving the investor the option to withdraw it; (3) require a broker dealer to treat as a liability any capital contribution that is withdrawn within a year of its contribution unless the broker dealer receives permission for the withdrawal in writing from its designated examining authority; (4) require a broker dealer to deduct from net capital (with regard to fidelity bonding requirements prescribed by a broker dealer’s self-regulatory organization (SRO)) the excess of any deductible amount over the amount permitted by the SRO’s rules; and (5) clarify that any broker dealer that becomes “insolvent” is required to cease conducting a securities business.

The SEC amended the Books and Records Rules to require large broker dealers (i.e., at least $1,000,000 in aggregate credits or $20,000,000 in capital) to document their market, credit and liquidity risk management controls. Under the amended Notification Rule there are new notification requirements for when a broker dealer’s repurchase and securities lending activities exceed 2,500 percent of tentative net capital (or, alternatively, a broker dealer may report monthly its stock loan and repurchase activity to its designated examining authority, in a form acceptable to such authority). In addition, the amended Notification Rule requires insolvent broker dealers to provide notice to regulatory authorities.

In a separate release, the SEC also amended Exchange Act Rule 17a-5 (Reporting Rule). Under the amended Reporting Rule, a broker dealer that has custody of the customers’ assets must file a “compliance report” with the SEC to verify that it is adhering to broker dealer capital requirements, protecting customer assets it holds and periodically sending account statements to customers. The broker dealer also must engage a Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB)-registered independent public accountant to prepare a report based on an examination of certain statements in the broker dealer’s compliance report. A broker dealer that does not have custody of its customers’ assets must file an “exemption report” with the SEC citing its exemption from requirements applicable to carrying broker dealers. The broker dealer also must engage a PCAOB-registered independent public accountant to prepare a report based on a review of certain statements in the broker dealer’s exemption report. A broker dealer that is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) also must file its annual reports with SIPC.

The rule amendments also require a broker dealer to file a new quarterly report, called Form Custody, that contains information about whether and how it maintains custody of its customers’ securities and cash. The SEC intends that examiners will use Form Custody as a starting point to focus their custody examinations. In addition, a broker dealer, regardless of whether it has custody of its clients’ assets, must agree to allow SEC or SRO staff to review the work papers of the independent public accountant if it is requested in writing for purposes of an examination of the broker dealer and must allow the accountant to discuss its findings with the examiners.

The effective date for the amendments to the Financial Responsibility Rules is 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. The effective date for the requirement to file Form Custody and the requirement to file annual reports with SIPC is Dec. 31, 2013. The effective date for the requirements relating to broker dealer annual reports is June 1, 2014.

Click here to read SEC Release No. 34-70072 (Financial Responsibility Rules for Broker Dealers).

Click here to read SEC Release No. 34-70073 (Broker Dealer Reports).