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Securities and Exchange Commission Complaint Procedures

Whenever a problem occurs with your investment account, you should immediately discuss the matter with your broker or investment adviser. If you have done all that you can to resolve the problem directly with your financial professional and his firm yet failed to get a satisfactory resolution, you can lodge a complaint against this individual or firm with the SEC.

To file a complaint with the SEC, use the online complaint facility. You can also send a letter to the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy at mailing address:

Securities and Exchange Commission
Office of Investor Education and Advocacy
100 F Street, N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20549-0213

What happens after you file a complaint with the SEC?

The SEC Office of Investor Education and Advocacy only receives complaints and inquiries from investors. After receiving your complaint, this office will evaluate the subject of the complaint and decide where to route it.

More often than not, the Office of Investor Education and Advocacy will send your complaint through to the SEC Division of Enforcement. This division is the SEC division that investigates investors' complaints. In some cases, a complaint letter may be sent through to a different SEC division and may be even sent to your state securities regulator.

Whatever the action SEC decides to take about your complaint, you can expect a response from SEC. You can expect to receive such a letter in a few days or a bit longer, depending on the difficulty and gravity of your problem.

Once the Investigation Goes Underway

Once an investigation is underway, the financial professional or firm named in your complaint will be sent a copy of your letter. This other party will then be given a chance to respond to your complaint. Such a response should be sent to you and the SEC.

All SEC investigations are confidential. Only the two parties involved in the matter (and their representatives, if any) can receive communication regarding the matter. SEC will refuse to comment if asked by a third party to confirm that a company or an individual is under investigation.

Once the SEC Closes an Investigation

The SEC investigates complaints and facilitates the communication between parties in dispute. Once communication lines are opened and one or both parties concede, the matter is successfully resolved and the investigation closed.

However, some complaints do not end so well. If the parties refuse to resolve the matter amiably and on their own (with the SEC facilitating), the parties in dispute have to resort to more advanced dispute resolution measures.

If your complaint ends in a draw, you should explore other options. You can file a complaint with FINRA or you can go for mediation, arbitration or litigation. At this point, it would be best to get the services of a securities lawyer.

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