With the recent news that professionals who invest your retirement money will soon have to do so with your best interests in mind, many people may go shopping for a stockbroker to help them manage their life savings.
But anyone who does ought to examine a working paper that three professors released last month. Here's some of what they found:
• Among brokers employed from 2005 to 2015, 7.28 percent had at least one disclosure in their industry records for a settled consumer complaint or worse.
• Many household-name firms have double the percentage of brokers with such marks, with Oppenheimer topping the list at 19.6 percent.
• Five of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of brokers with disclosures are in Florida.
The brokerage industry is unusual in that there is an easy way for consumers to look up and read about many of the problems that its employees have had in the past. That happens through a website called BrokerCheck (brokercheck.finra.org) maintained by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the nongovernment industry regulator known as Finra.
When customers get into disputes with their brokers, the results of any formal proceedings (often arbitration in this industry, as in so many others) generally end up in BrokerCheck. So do any penalties from regulators or others. If the broker has been fired for cause, this, too, will generally show up, as will any personal tax liens on brokers or bankruptcies that they've filed.