1. Common stock
2. Preferred stock
3. Debt securities
4. Corporate debt
5. Municipal debt
6. US government debt
7. Investment companies
8. Alternative pooled investments
9. Options
10. Taxes
11. The primary market
12. The secondary market
13. Brokerage accounts
14. Retirement & education plans
15. Rules & ethics
15.1 The regulators
15.2 Prohibited activities
15.3 Ethical duties
15.4 Other laws & regulations
15.4.1 Regulation S-P
15.4.2 Telephone Consumer Protection Act
15.4.3 Public communications
15.4.4 Proxy rules
15.4.5 Licenses & CE
15.4.6 Registered representative rules
15.4.7 Record retention requirements
16. Wrapping up
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15.4.3 Public communications
Achievable SIE
15. Rules & ethics
15.4. Other laws & regulations

Public communications

When a firm communicates with the public, FINRA categorizes each communication and regulates it accordingly. Firms are required to oversee and maintain a record of all of their public communications. There are three main categories of public communications: correspondence, retail communications, and institutional communications.

Any written or electronic communication sent to 25 or fewer retail investors within a 30-day period is considered correspondence. Usually personal letters, e-mails, or letters sent to small groups of investors, correspondence is not high on FINRA’s watch list. Sometimes FINRA wants to see a copy of what’s being sent to the public (see retail communications below), but they do not require the filing of correspondence. Also, correspondence does not require any internal pre-approval by a principal (supervisor). Regardless, correspondence should be actively monitored by the firm and is always subject to review by FINRA.

When any written or electronic communication is sent to more than 25 retail investors within a 30-day period, it’s considered a retail communication. FINRA is a little more concerned about these communications because of how many people see them. Commercials, newspaper ads, and billboards all fall into the definition of retail communications. To properly regulate and enforce their laws, FINRA requires firms to file copies of these communications with them. Additionally, firm principals (supervisors) must pre-approve these communications prior to them being sent.

Institutional communications are exactly what they sound like; they’re written or electronic communications with institutions. Because institutions can generally take care of themselves and can spot fraud when they see it, FINRA does not require firms to file their institutional communications or have them pre-approved by principals. Similar to correspondence, they should still be supervised by the firm and are always subject to FINRA review. Institutions include banks, broker-dealers, underwriters, and insurance companies.

Key points


  • Written communication sent to 25 or fewer retail investors in 30 days
  • Not filed with FINRA
  • No principal pre-approval is required
  • Subject to review

Retail communications

  • Written communication sent to more than 25 retail investors in 30 days
  • Filed with FINRA
  • Principal pre-approval required

Institutional communications

  • Written communications with institutions
  • Not filed with FINRA
  • No principal pre-approval is required

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