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SEC Hints at Tougher Online-Broker Rules Over Game-Like Features

The SEC is seeking information from market participants, consumer advocates and others on “digital engagement practices” that are closely associated with the mobile phone apps offered by Robinhood and other companies.

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sent its strongest signal yet that it plans to toughen rules for online brokers by issuing a wide-ranging request for comment on how the firms use game-like features and other tools to attract investors.  

In a Friday statement, the Wall Street regulator said it’s seeking information from market participants, consumer advocates and others on “digital engagement practices” that are closely associated with the mobile phone apps offered by Robinhood Markets Inc. and other companies. The SEC said it’s concerned that such technologies are putting investors at risk. 

“While new technologies can bring us greater access and product choice, they also raise questions as to whether we as investors are appropriately protected when we trade and get financial advice,” SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a Friday statement. “In many cases, these features may encourage investors to trade more often, invest in different products, or change their investment strategy.”

Robinhood’s rapid growth has been fueled by the legions of customers it added during the Covid-19 pandemic and because it’s the go-to destination for investors who want to trade hot meme stocks like GameStop Corp. But those same factors have attracted scrutiny on Capitol Hill, with some lawmakers demanding that the SEC tighten oversight.  

The regulator said the comments it receives will allow it to assess whether existing regulations are sufficient or if it should pursue new requirements. The SEC will accept comments for 30 days. 

TAGS: Technology
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