The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy is issuing this Investor Bulletin to show investors how to use Investor.gov’s free and easy search tool to help you check out brokers and investment advisers. Always research an investment professional—including confirming they are registered and whether they’ve had any disciplinary events—before deciding to work with them.
What is the search tool?
The Check Out Your Investment Professional search tool uses the SEC’s IAPD (Investment Adviser Public Disclosure) database as a one-stop shop to access certain information that SEC- and state-registered investment advisers are required to provide about their businesses and investment advisory representatives. IAPD also provides access to information about brokers and their registered representatives.
How do I use the tool?
To begin using the search tool, you must select “individual” or a “firm” from the drop-down menu on the far left hand side. Next, simply type in the name of the individual or firm into the search box.
A firm could be a company or a sole practitioner that is registered as an investment adviser, a brokerage firm, or both (a “dual registrant”). An individual is someone working for a firm, and is referred to as an investment adviser (or investment adviser representative), a broker (or registered representative), or both. If you are unsure whether an investment professional is an individual or firm, consider searching both ways.
As you type in the name, the search tool will generate a list of possible matches. It will show you a list containing the name, any alternate names, and the current employer (if applicable) or current location (if applicable) for individuals and firms, respectively. To view information about an individual’s or firm’s current registration status and whether any disciplinary history has been reported, click on the name.
If you can’t find the individual or firm you are looking for, it may mean that they are not a registered financial professional. Unlicensed, unregistered persons commit many of the securities frauds that target retail investors. Working with a financial professional who is registered or licensed with federal or state securities regulators affords you certain legal protections. You can contact the firm or individual and ask if they are registered. You can also contact the state securities regulator or use the SEC Action Lookup – Individuals (SALI) database.
If the search results indicate that the financial professional has “Disclosures Reported,” it means they have disciplinary history. It may be helpful to understand what the history is.
Viewing the Summary
Click “Get Full Report” for individuals. Click “Get Details” for firms. If a firm is registered as a brokerage firm and an adviser firm, there will be two buttons, one for each type of registration. You should review both sets of information.
What information can I find using the tool?
Investment Adviser Representatives, Investment Adviser Firms, and Dual Registrants
For investment adviser representatives and investment adviser firms, when you click on “Get Full Report” or “Get Details,” you will be directed to a summary page on IAPD.
If a firm is also registered as a brokerage firm, clicking on “Get Details” will redirect you to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) BrokerCheck system for more information about its record as a brokerage firm.
For investment adviser representatives, the summary page contains brief information about:
- Registration history. This includes the names of current and past firms the individual has worked for, and the duration of that registration.
- Disclosures. If applicable, this is a summary of certain disciplinary events.
- Examination(s). If applicable, this includes a list of certain examinations the individual has completed, and the date of completion.
- License(s). If applicable, this includes a list of states and self-regulatory organizations the individual is currently registered with, and whether they are currently suspended with any jurisdiction.
- Current registration(s). This includes the name and location of any firms the individual currently works for, and the date of registration.
- Previous registration(s). This includes the name of any firms the individual previously worked for, and the dates they were registered.
For investment adviser firms, the summary page contains brief information about:
- Registration status. This includes whether the firm is registered with the SEC or one or more states, and the effective date of the registration.
- Notice filings. This includes a list of any states to which the firm must provide a copy of its Form ADV (called a “notice filing”), and information about the firm’s filings with the states.
- Exempt reporting adviser status. This is whether the firm is an “exempt reporting adviser” that relies on certain exemptions from the requirement to register as an investment adviser but completes and files at least certain parts of Form ADV.
Brokers and Brokerage Firms
For brokers or brokerage firms that are not also registered as investment adviser representatives or investment adviser firms, when you click on “Get Full Report” or “Get Details,” you will be redirected to the FINRA BrokerCheck system. FINRA offers BrokerCheck FAQs to help you get started.
Getting More Detail – Investment Adviser Representatives
For investment adviser representatives, the top right corner of the summary page also includes a link to a more detailed report that shows:
- Report Summary. This is an overview of the individual’s professional background and conduct.
- Qualifications. This includes the states and territories in which the individual is currently registered, the industry exams they have passed and the professional designations they hold.
- Registration and Employment History. This includes previous registrations, employment history, and other business activities in which the individual is currently engaged.
- Disclosure Information. If applicable, this includes the details of disciplinary events that have been reported.
Getting More Detail – Investment Adviser Firms
For investment adviser firms, the summary page also includes buttons with links to the firm’s current Form ADV and Part 2 at the top of the summary page. Form ADV is the uniform form used by investment advisers to register with both the SEC and state securities regulators. Part 2 of the Form ADV is a narrative brochure that includes plain English disclosures of the adviser’s business practices, fees, conflicts of interest, and disciplinary information.
As of June 30, 2020, the summary page also includes a button with a link to the firm’s current relationship summary (also called Part 3 of Form ADV (Form CRS)).
You can also easily navigate to individual sections of a firm’s Form ADV by selecting “View Form ADV By Section” to the left of the summary page, then clicking on a specific item or schedule from the list that appears on the left.
For example, to view information about a firm’s control persons:
Information about investment adviser firms no longer registered with the SEC or states is available on IAPD for 10 years. You can view the last documents they filed by clicking on the “View latest Form ADV filed” button.
IAPD only provides access to the most recently filed documents for both registered firms and firms that are no longer registered. Prior versions of firms’ documents are not available through IAPD.
Additional Resources on IAPD
In addition to its search feature, IAPD contains certain data on investment adviser firms and investment adviser representatives. This information can be accessed by selecting “Investment Adviser Data” to the left of the IAPD homepage or under the search box located at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov.
You can also access additional links related to the SEC, the North American Securities Administrators Association (the state securities regulators’ website), and FINRA by selecting “Resources” to the left of the IAPD homepage.
Call the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy at (800) 732-0330 for help with using the search tool and IAPD.