By Matt Vigo
The “Broker Protocol” FACTs & FAQs
- The “Broker Protocol” (Protocol) is an agreement that was created in August 2004.
- The Protocol protects Registered Representatives (RR) who seek to move from one signatory firm to another.
- The Protocol was originally signed by Smith Barney (now Morgan Stanley), Merrill Lynch, and UBS.
- The Protocol’s principal goal:
- In legal terms: “…to further the clients’ interests of privacy and freedom of choice in connection with the movement of their Registered Representatives (“RR”) between firms.” – The Broker Protocol: https://www.thebrokerProtocol.com/index.php/authors/read-the-Protocol
- In layman’s terms: To allow Registered Representatives (RRs) and/or Investment Adviser Representatives (IARs) the ability to switch firms without fear of legal action.
- The Protocol governs when and how RRs/IARs can contact their clients and what information can be taken from their old firm to the new firm.
- When RRs/IARs move from one firm to another and both firms are signatories to the Protocol, they are allowed to take with them: client name, address, phone number, email address, and account title.
Q1 – Who is covered by the Broker Protocol?
A1 – The Protocol protects “registered representatives” who seek to move from one signatory “firm” to another. The term “registered representative” is not defined in the agreement, but the term is defined by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rules as follows:
“The term ‘registered representative’ means an employee engaged in the solicitation or handling of accounts or orders for the purchase or sale of securities, or other similar instruments, for the accounts of customers of his employer or in the solicitation or handling of business in connection with investment advisory or investment management services furnished on a fee basis by his employer.”
The Protocol also does not define which “firms” are qualified to join the Protocol and seek protection under its terms for their newly hired “registered representatives.” While some have argued that the Protocol was intended to cover only broker-dealers, the agreement does not say that, and hundreds of Registered Investment Advisors (RIAs) have joined the Protocol.
Q2 – Can an individual broker or advisor join the Protocol?
A2 – No. Only employer “firms” such as broker-dealers and RIAs can join the Protocol.
Q3 – As a registered representative changing broker-dealers, what information can I take with me?
A3 – If your old and new firms are members of the Protocol, you are permitted to take the name, address, phone number, email address, and account title for every client that you personally serviced at your former firm, subject to certain limitations for partnerships and retirement agreements. You are not permitted to take any other documents or information concerning the accounts of your clients.
Q4 – Can I obtain account numbers or statements for my clients after I move?
A4 – Yes. The new firm can request client account numbers, most recent account statements, or holding information from the former firm by forwarding an authorization signed by the client.
Q5 – What do I have to do to claim protection under the Protocol?
A5 – You should provide a written resignation letter to your branch manager and attach a copy of the client list you retained that also includes account numbers for each client. Remember, the list you take with you may not include account numbers – you should specifically note that fact.
Q6 – What about the terms of my employment or association agreement?
A6 – Many registered representatives have executed employment or association agreements containing terms prohibiting solicitation of customers or retention of customer lists. However, as long as the former and new firms are signatories to the Protocol and the registered representative substantially complies with its terms, the Protocol provides that the registered representative shall not be liable to the former firm for retaining the information identified in the Protocol or soliciting clients on behalf of the new firm.
Q7 – Can I use the Protocol if I am part of a team or partnership?
A7 – Yes. If you have a partnership agreement, its terms apply to any client who you did not introduce to the team. Whether or not you have a team agreement, you are entitled to take information related to clients you brought to the team and solicit them after your resignation from your former firm.
If you do not have a partnership agreement but have been part of a team for more than four years, you are permitted to take information related to all clients serviced by the team and solicit them after your resignation. If you have been a member of the team for less than four years and there is no partnership agreement, you are limited to those clients you introduced to the team.
For additional information regarding the “Broker Protocol” please visit: https://www.thebrokerProtocol.com/index.php/authors/read-the-Protocol and for more FAQs please visit: https://www.thebrokerProtocol.com/index.php/faqs
Disclaimer: All information was provided from “thebrokerProtocol.com” website and are the opinions of the “original” authors. They go on to say that If you are considering joining or are already a member and have questions, you should consult with your own legal counsel.
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