Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Jay Clayton told the nation’s top regulators and securities attorneys today that the agency is creating the first-ever website and national database that investors can search to ferret out barred and suspended advisors and brokers.

“We think this will be particularly valuable when bad actors have shifted from the registered space for investment advisors and broker-dealers to the unregistered space,” Clayton told attendees at the Practising Law Institute’s 49th Annual Institute on Securities Regulation in New York City today.

“Clearly, there are fraudsters in our marketplace who are seemingly unafraid of, or undeterred by, the risk of being caught. The SEC can target the underlying conduct of those fraudsters—and we do—but we also can and should arm investors with information that makes it more difficult for them to be defrauded.”

The SEC’s website and database—the first of its kind—will contain a searchable database of individuals who have been barred or suspended for federal securities law violations. The resource is intended to make the prior actions of repeat offenders and fraudsters more visible to investors, said Clayton.

The SEC will also continue to hammer home the importance to investors of performing background checks on all their financial professionals, he added.

“A question we should be continuously asking is: Are there opportunities to deter, mitigate or eliminate wrongdoing before an enforcement action becomes necessary?” Clayton said.

The SEC chairman also vowed to streamline the agency’s agenda—both in the short term and in its five-year plan—to focus on a lack of transparency. “Looking back at enforcement actions, a common theme emerges—where opacity exists, bad behavior tends to follow,” he said.

Advisors’ fee disclosures will also continue to be a hot button issue for regulators, he added.

“A narrative that flows throughout the commission’s inspection and enforcement programs is complex, obscure, or hidden fees and expenses that can harm investors. For example, some firms may invest clients’ money in a mutual fund share class that charges a 12b-1 fee when a lower-cost share class of the same fund is available, or advisors may improperly choose to use fund assets to pay expenses that should be paid by the firm.”

The SEC is also looking hard at instances where brokers charge fees that are designed to cover the costs of services provided while also marking up the prices of securities to earn a profit that is not disclosed.

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