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Robinhood Fined $70 Million For Misleading Customers, System Outages

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is fining Robinhood almost $70 million to settle charges over issues it identified with the company’s stock trading service. The authority claims that the financial app company neglected its duty to supervise trades, maintain its technology, and protect its customers. The fine is the largest in FINRA’s history and Robinhood has agreed to pay.

The authority’s announcement doesn’t specifically identify the case, but it does appear to reference the death of Alex Kearns, who died by suicide after finding a negative $730,000 balance in his Robinhood account from unintentional margin trades. Robinhood was sued following Kearns’ death and ultimately settled for an undisclosed amount.

FINRA says since 2016 Robinhood has periodically provided false and misleading information on topics like whether customers were able to place trades on margin, including displaying inaccurate information in its app on how much cash was in customers’ accounts.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) fine is the latest hit to Robinhood’s reputation. The broker, which has been credited with democratizing trading, is under scrutiny by federal and state policymakers following this year’s meme-stock fiasco which raised questions over the California firm’s business model, risk management, and customer treatment.

FINRA also took issue with Robinhood’s reliance on algorithms to approve customers for options trading and the outages the platform has suffered, locking customers out of their accounts “during a time of historic market volatility.”

The sweeping agreement, which resolves alleged FINRA violations dating back to September 2016, likely paves the way for the firm to move forward quickly with a planned initial public offering that has been delayed due to meme-stock backlash and other regulatory queries.

For those errors and failing to report customer complaints to FINRA, the financial authority is requiring Robinhood to pay a $57 million fine and $12.6 million in restitution to affected customers. Robinhood hasn’t owned up to FINRA’s complaints or denied them, but it did say in a statement that, “We are glad to put this matter behind us and look forward to continuing to focus on our customers and democratizing finance for all.”

The timing for all of this is pretty poor for Robinhood. While FINRA doesn’t directly take issue with the company’s role in the rush to buy GameStop stock earlier this year, Robinhood is expected to go public soon, and a multimillion-dollar fine is kind of a gigantic blemish.

Robinhood is attempting to address some of FINRA’s problems without fully acknowledging them. In a company blog post published on Wednesday, Robinhood announced it’s expanding its customer support team, planning on offering “enhanced in-app educational resources,” and attempting to address the issues around providing accurate customer information and supervision on trades.

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