The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says it’s conducting an exam sweep of firms offering access to special purpose acquisition companies or providing services to them.
The industry’s self-regulator wants information on the companies’ policies and procedures, compliance materials and internal guidance in effect during the period of July 1, 2018, through September 30, 2021. The request seeks information about public offerings, qualified independent underwriters, private securities transactions, conflicts of interest and communications with customers, among other aspects of activities related to SPACs, according to a targeted exam letter published by Finra.
Other areas where the self-regulator wants information include services offered to SPAC issuers as well as to firms that were or are acquisition targets of a SPAC offered by them.
Finra says it’s also seeking information on the departments or teams within companies’ investment banking services, any third-party providers used for due diligence, and how the firms or their registered representatives zeroed in on customers to whom to recommend SPAC securities.
The self-regulator also wants a list of any customer complaints, arbitration or lawsuits received by the firms in relation to SPAC offerings, according to the exam letter.
SPACS, otherwise known as "blank-check companies," have become increasingly popular this year, attracting tens of billions of dollars in the first quarter of the year alone. The sponsors use the money raised to help bring various private companies public, which SPAC investors then own part of. In addition to assets, they've attracted skepticism from some traditional financial industry players and regulatory scrutiny.
In March, for example, UBS prohibited its financial advisors from pitching SPACs to the firm’s wealth management clients.
And Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Gary Gensler said in May that the regulator will be examining investor protection issues related to SPACs.
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