Foreside and FINRA Promoting Regulation | Foreside
Foreside works with our clients to deliver legally compliant marketing communications to institutional and retail investors. Foreside works closely with FINRA Advertising Regulation staff to help our clients’ marketing communications comply with FINRA rules and interpretative guidelines. In the past year, Foreside submitted over 7,000 notices to FINRA that provided valuable feedback on many product lines. We are happy to share this useful information with our customers to keep them informed and to help them create marketing communications.
Important findings from the FINRA comment letters since the beginning of the year
- Avoid dense blocks of text in disclosures. FINRA requires space between each piece of information, and different font styles in a dense block will not meet the requirements.
- Define key terms to make sure your audience understands the concepts being discussed.
- Do not put risks and disclosures under headings such as “disclaimers,” which minimize the meaning of the disclosure.
- Depending on the information discussed in the notice, risk statements may need to be included in the main text of the document.
- The performance specification must be included the first time a standardized or non-standardized performance is mentioned and must be emphasized in the same way.
- When discussing a product, most communications must contain the language of the prospectus.
- Avoid standard language if it does not apply to the information in the communication.
- Issues discussed in the notice trigger certain risk disclosures required by FINRA.
- New product launches and regulatory focus:
- Performance-oriented products
- Special Purposed Acquisition Company (SPAC) products
- Environment, social and governance products (ESG)
- Closed private funds
Everything about ESG 2021
Environmental, social and governance strategies (ESG) are a focus of the FINRA advertising regulation this year. FINRA has provided feedback to member firms through discussions with FINRA analysts and FINRA comment letters. It is also important to note that socially responsible investment (SRI) communications should help comply with ESG guidelines.
- Firms promoting ESG strategies and skills in fund marketing communications must ensure that the information is supported by the fund prospectus.
- The use of third-party data such as ESG scores or ESG labels must be supported by a statement similar to that required for ratings and rankings under the FINRA rules.
- Companies have to put statements like “Leaders in ESG” on a solid basis. Backup copies or additional information is required in the communications to support the claim.
- Advisors can pursue an overall ESG strategy with stock selection; However, if this strategy is not mentioned in the fund’s prospectus, it will be difficult to present the fund as an ESG fund in marketing communications.
- Define the acronym “ESG” in communication.
Buzzwords that you should avoid in marketing communication for funds
This is not an all-inclusive list, but it is always helpful to have an idea of the types of languages that FINRA can comment on:
- Institutional quality / institutional access
- “Like” statements (e.g. share-like, bond-like, institutionally similar)
- Protection / under protection
- Risk free
DO NOT FORGET
- The FINRA member’s company name must appear on all materials.
- The language of the prospectus must be at least the same font size / text style as the main body of the communication and must be used in all marketing communications offering a fund.
- The legend for the service description must have the same font size / text style as the service data in the communication and be placed in the immediate vicinity of the first mention of the service.
- Look out for forward-looking statements. Safeguard statements can help (meaning we believe they may be an opportunity).
- FINRA prohibits back-tested data and projections.
- The bundling of FINRA registrations is no longer permitted by FINRA. For example, a website post that links to a video, an email that discusses the video, and a social media post that links to the video must now be submitted as three separate elements in AdCompliance, and if applicable individually submitted to FINRA.
- Are you looking for tips to help you find your way around advertising compliance? Collaborate with your advertising compliance team.
- Would you like to launch a new product or work on a new marketing plan for existing products? Discuss your marketing plan with us to avoid unforeseen problems with adherence to advertising guidelines.
- Would you like additional training? Please contact your relationship manager!