$12.6 Million to Compensate Injured Customers
The sanctions represent the largest financial penalty ever ordered by FINRA and reflect the scope and seriousness of the violations. FINRA considered the widespread and significant harm suffered by customers, including millions of customers who received false or misleading information from the firm, millions of customers affected by the firm’s systems outages in March 2020, and thousands of customers the firm approved to trade options even when it was not appropriate for the customers to do so.
In the firm’s AWC, FINRA found, and Robinhood consented to the findings, that:
- the firm communicated false and misleading information to its customers regarding a variety of critical issues, including whether customers could place trades on margin, how much cash was in customers’ accounts, how much buying power or “negative buying power” customers had, the risk of loss customers faced in certain options transactions, and whether customers faced margin calls.
- the firm failed to exercise due diligence before approving customers to place options trades. The firm relied on algorithms—known at Robinhood as “option account approval bots”—to approve customers for options trading, with only limited oversight by firm principals. Those bots often approved customers to trade options based on inconsistent or illogical information. As a result, Robinhood approved thousands of customers for options trading who either did not satisfy the firm’s eligibility criteria or whose accounts contained red flags indicating that options trading may not have been appropriate for them.
- from January 2018 to February 2021, Robinhood failed to reasonably supervise the technology that it relied upon to provide core broker-dealer services, such as accepting and executing customer orders. Between 2018 and late 2020, Robinhood experienced a series of outages and critical systems failures. The most serious outage occurred on March 2 and 3, 2020, when Robinhood’s website and mobile applications shut down, preventing Robinhood’s customers from accessing their accounts during a time of historic market volatility. Although the firm had a business continuity plan at the time of the March 2-3 outage, it did not apply it because the plan was unreasonably limited to events that impacted the firm’s physical location. Robinhood’s inability to accept or execute customer orders during these outages resulted in individual customers losing tens of thousands of dollars and FINRA is requiring that the firm pay more than $5 million in restitution to affected customers.
- between January 2018 and December 2020, Robinhood failed to report to FINRA tens of thousands of written customer complaints that it was required to report. Robinhood’s reporting failures included complaints that Robinhood provided customers with false and misleading information and that customers suffered losses as a result of the firm’s outages and systems failures. Robinhood’s reporting failures were primarily the result of a firm-wide policy that exempted certain broad categories of complaints from reporting, even though those categories fell within the scope of FINRA’s reporting requirements. The settlement resolves numerous other charges against Robinhood, including the firm’s failure to have a reasonably designed customer identification program and its failure to display complete market data information.
In settling this matter, Robinhood neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings.
The attorneys at Sallah Astarita & Cox, LLC are former SEC Staff Attorneys and brokerage firm counsel, with over 100 years of collective experience. If you have a securities law question, or a dispute with a brokerage firm, call 212-509-6544 for a free consultation. The firm represents investors and financial professionals nationwide.