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Compliance Issues for Forex IBs, CPOs and CTAs

NFA Produces Compliance Webinar for Retail Forex Firms

Since the CFTC passed its final rules on retail participation in off-exchange foreign currency markets back in October 2010, there has been an influx of newly registered introducing forex brokers (IBs), commodity pool operators (CPOs), and commodity trading advisors (CTAs).  On June 8, 2011, the NFA hosted a webinar that focused on common regulatory deficiencies that NFA staff members have found during compliance audits of these IBs, CPOs and CTAs.  The following is a brief overview of the common regulatory deficiencies the NFA staff found regarding registration issues, disclosure documents, recordkeeping requirements, promotional materials, and anti-money laundering programs.


Forex Registration Issues

Any entity intermediating retail forex transactions is required to be registered as forex IB, CPO, or CTA.  Common deficiencies for these

firms include having unlisted APs, failing to register supervisory APs, failing to withdraw APs, or failing to list branch offices.  Additionally, the following are areas emphasized in the webinar:

Listing All Principals – Criteria for being listed as a Principal of the firm generally are (1) job title, (2) ownership (direct or indirect), and (3) job duties and ability to control business activities.  More detail is available in NFA Rule 101.  Tips for ensuring the proper individuals are listed, include:

  • After any board of directors’ meetings, ensure any new directors/officers become listed as Principals of firm.
  • Periodically review the owners of any holding company of the firm to ensure indirect owners are listed if required.

Associated Person (AP) Registration – Essentially anyone who is a salesperson or supervises salespersons is required to be registered as an AP.  It is important to look at the supervisory chain of command–an individual must be registered, no matter how high he/she is on the supervisory chain of command.

  • Exam requirements – The APs must pass the Series 3 exam and the Series 34 exam.  If a person was registered as an AP, sole proprietor, or floor broker as of May 22, 2008 and there has not been more than a 2-year gap since that registration, the person is not required to pass the Series 34.
  • Tips for ensuring the proper individuals are registered:
    • Terminate an AP’s registration within 30 days of an AP leaving the firm.
    • After any shifts in control, ensure those with controlling influence are listed as Principals, and those that supervise APs are registered as APs themselves.

Branch Office Registration – Common deficiencies include:

  • Branch Office Address – Each branch office must be registered. Each branch office must use the name of the firm and hold itself out as a branch of the firm.  It cannot be a separate entity.
  • Payment of APs – Each AP in the branch office must be paid directly by the firm (payment by an intermediary would lead to the assumption the intermediary needs to be registered with the NFA).


Information in Customer File – This information is normally initially obtained upon account opening, but the firm must also maintain up-to-date and readily accessible information.   The firm shouldn’t rely on the FCM for this information unless it has been agreed upon before account opening.  The following information must be in the firm’s file for each customer and must be obtained before account opening:

  • name, address, date of birth, and principal occupation,
  • for individuals – current estimated annual income and net worth,
  • notes about the customer’s previous investment and trading experience and any other information that would assist the firm to accurately and fully disclose all the risks of trading,
  • signed customer acknowledgment that he/she has received all of the required risk disclosures, which include:
    • CFTC Regulation 5.5 risk disclosures (e.g. the FCM is the counterparty to all trades and forex trading is extremely risky and not suitable for all investors),
    • performance for the last 4 quarters for all non-discretionary accounts held at customer’s FCM (broken down by profitable/non-profitable accounts in percentage form), and
    • some customers need to receive additional risk disclosure statements based on age, trading experience, and net worth.

Business with Member Firms – Firms need to make sure they are not conducting business with any non-NFA member firms that are required to be registered (or are suspended).  Make sure counterparties are registered as FCMs or RFEDs, or solicitors are registered IBs.  The firm should also review their list of customers–if a customer’s name indicates he/she might be engaged in the trading business, inquire as to the customer’s registration/membership status.  The firm can also check on the NFA’s BASIC system to see if the customer is properly registered or operating under an exemption from registration.  The firm should document this process to show it did proper due diligence on the account.

Forex Disclosure Documents

All nonexempt CPOs operating a pool and CTAs that manage forex accounts for retail customers must distribute a forex disclosure document to their clients.  Three common problems are:

Risk Disclosures – The firm needs to make sure all risks associated with forex trading are disclosed.  This can include volatility, leverage, liquidity, counterparty creditworthiness, and others risks relevant to the program.

Fee Description – The fee description must be complete and all defined terms must be fully explained.

Performance Results

  • CTA disclosure documents must include the actual performance of all clients directed by the CTA and each trading principal for the last 5 years to date (any past performance must be calculated net of all fees, including mark ups associated with bid/ask spread, etc.). If the CTA directed accounts prior to be being registered as a CTA, the disclosure document must still disclose those accounts.
  • The NFA has a guide on disclosure documents available here.

Forex Promotional Materials

Policies & Procedures – The firm must develop written procedures for how it creates and reviews promotional materials, as well as how the firm supervises employees on these matters.  Promotional materials:

  • must present a balanced discussion of the risk of loss (any discussion of profits should also discuss the risk of loss),
  • must provide a discussion of fees associated with trading forex,
  • must provide appropriate disclaimers for past performance, and
  • must not suggest forex trading is appropriate for everyone or guarantee success.
Social Media – Any communications with the public is considered promotional materials (e.g. emails, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.).  All information on social media must be in accordance with the NFA’s promotional materials rules.

  • If the firm hosts a blog, chat room, or other discussion forum that allows the general public to comment, those comments must be reviewed regularly to ensure they are not misleading or one-sided. Such comments must be removed immediately and the firm should also ban those users who repeatedly post comments that violate the rules.
  • Keep records of which posts are deleted, which users are blocked, how often a review is conducted, and how employees are supervised.
  • If employees have personal blogs, Facebook accounts, etc., the firm should monitor the posts periodically.  Any references to the firm can be seen as promotional materials.  If after monitoring employees’ personal pages, there are never any references to the firm’s business, then the procedures can change and require less frequent monitoring.
  • Special rules apply for the use of audio/visual ads.  If the firm provides trade recommendations or discuss past/potential profits through radio or webcasts (such as YouTube), the firm is required to submit them to the NFA for approval at least 10 days prior to use.

Anti-Money Laundering Program

An anti-money laundering program is required for IBs (guaranteed and independent), FCMs and RFEDs (even if they don’t hold customer funds).  These procedures are designed to guard against someone using the firm to facilitate money laundering or other terrorist financing.  The program should include:

  • written policies and procedures,
  • the appointment of a chief compliance officer,
  • ongoing training, and
  • an annual, independent audit.

The NFA has an Anti-Money Laundering webinar available on its website.

The NFA’s “Compliance Issues for Forex IBs, CPOs and CTAs” webinar is archived on the NFA’s website and can be found here .


Bart Mallon is an attorney with a practice focused on hedge funds managed futures and forex regulatory issues.  He can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.


NFA Forex Alert




OCTOBER 18, 2010

New Forex Rules Become Effective on October 18

On August 30, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) issued its final rules regarding retail off-exchange foreign currency (forex) trading in the United States. The rules, which become effective on October 18, 2010, have far-reaching implications for all forex investors in the United States.

The rules require, with certain exceptions, any firm acting as a counterparty to certain retail forex transactions to register as a Retail Foreign Exchange Dealer (RFED) or Futures Commission Merchant (FCM). In addition, the rules require, with certain exceptions, any individual acting as a forex solicitor, account manager or pool operator to register with the CFTC as Introducing Brokers (IBs), Commodity Trading Advisors (CTAs) or Commodity Pool Operators (CPOs) or as an associated usa pharmacy cheapest viagra person of one of these entities and become Members of NFA.

Effective October 18, all CFTC-registered forex firms and individuals will be subject to CFTC regulations and NFA rules covering every aspect of their business, including recordkeeping, promotional material and sales practices.

Investors can check the registration status of any forex firm through NFA’s Background Affiliation Status Information Center (BASIC) available on the Association’s website (www.nfa.futures.org). BASIC contains current and historical registration information concerning all current and former CFTC registrants, including name, business address and registration history.

BASIC also provides information concerning disciplinary actions taken by NFA, the CFTC and all the U.S. futures exchanges. If you are researching a firm, you should also conduct a background check of all the individuals listed as principals of the firm. Sometimes the firm will have no disciplinary history, but one or more of the principals may have been disciplined while working at other firms.

Forex investors can register complaints with NFA against any CFTC-registered firm or individual either by telephone or through NFA’s website.

In addition, investors who believe that they have been treated unfairly by their forex firm have the ability to file an arbitration claim with NFA. In most cases, arbitration is mandatory for all NFA Members and Associates required to be registered with the CFTC. NFA arbitration provides an effective and cost-efficient method for the settlement of futures and forex-related disputes.

For additional information, contact NFA’s Information Center at 1-800-621-3570 or (312) 781-1410.

NFA is a self-regulatory organization subject to oversight by the CFTC. NFA’s primary mission is to protect investors and safeguard market integrity.


Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP is a law firm and provides legal support and forex registration and compliance services to forex managers.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

NFA Provides Guidance on Forex Registration Requirements

Bart Mallon, Esq. – Mallon P.C.

NFA Releases Notice Regarding Forex Registration

As we discussed in our post yesterday about outstanding issues with retail forex regulations, the NFA posted guidance regarding the final retail forex regulations passed by the CFTC earlier this week.  In general, the notice answers a few of the questions regarding implementation of the regulations, but many questions are left unanswered.

The central take-aways from the notice below include the following:

  • NFA will begin taking registration applications from forex firms on September 2
  • Retail forex firms not registered by October 18, 2010 must cease conducting retail forex business until registration is finalized
  • Forex only FCMs will need to register as an RFED even though they are already registered as a FCM
  • Forex APs will need to pass both the Series 3 and Series 34 exams (with certain exceptions)
  • Forex IBs, if guaranteed, can only have a guarantee agreement with one FCM/RFED

The release below is silent on the following issues:

  • Disclosure documents for Forex CTAs and CPOs – do these need to be reviewed and approved by the NFA prior to use by the registered forex firm?  If so, is the NFA providing expedited review for these forex applications?
  • Currently registered CTAs and CPOs who conduct a small amount of retail forex transactions – do APs at these firms also need to take and pass the Series 34 exam?  Are there additional items in the NFA online registration system which need to be completed?
  • Open positions on October 19, 2010 – what happens if a forex CTA or CPO is not registered by October 19, 2010?

Other questions deal with issues which we will seek clarification from the CFTC – the big open question is whether individuals will be able to open accounts at offshore forex firms.

It is also currently unknown what sort of paperwork or procedures the forex dealers will be requiring from the forex CTAs and CPOs in order to comply with the provisions of the CEA.

The following notice can be found here.


Notice I-10-17

September 01, 2010

NFA to begin accepting registration applications from forex firms and individuals on September 2

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has issued final forex rules which become effective on October 18, 2010. NFA will begin accepting registration applications from forex firms and individuals beginning Thursday, September 2.

Any retail forex entity that does not complete the registration process by October 18, 2010 will be unable to conduct retail forex business until registration and all necessary approvals and designations are granted.

As part of the reauthorization of the CFTC in May 2008, Congress amended the Commodity Exchange Act to require, with certain exceptions, including a Futures Commission Merchant (FCM) acting primarily or substantially as a traditional FCM, any firm acting as a counterparty to certain retail forex transactions to register as a Retail Foreign Exchange Dealer (RFED).

Consequently, any existing Forex Dealer Member of NFA that is currently registered as an FCM must register as an RFED unless the firm’s business is primarily or substantially that of a traditional FCM. Moreover, even if the firm’s business is primarily or substantially that of a traditional FCM, the firm must access NFA’s Online Registration System (ORS) and request approval as a Forex Firm and designation as a Forex Dealer Member.

The Commodity Exchange Act was also amended to require any individual acting as a forex solicitor, account manager or pool operator to register with the CFTC as Introducing Brokers (IBs), Commodity Trading Advisors (CTAs) or Commodity Pool Operators (CPOs) and become Members of NFA. Also, any Associated Person (AP) soliciting or supervising persons soliciting business on behalf of a forex firm must request approval as a Forex AP.

If you are not currently registered, you must comply with all registration and forex requirements.

If you are currently registered as an IB, CPO, CTA or AP that is conducting forex business, you must still apply for Forex Firm or Forex AP approval.

All individuals who solicit retail off-exchange forex business or who supervise that activity must take and pass two exams. One is the National Commodity Futures Examination (Series 3) and the other is the Retail Off-Exchange Forex Examination (Series 34), a new exam focusing exclusively on forex-related questions.

Individuals who were registered as APs, sole proprietors or floor brokers (FBs) on May 22, 2008 will not need to take the Series 34 exam unless there has been a two-year gap in their registration since that date.

Every approved Forex Firm (RFED, FCM, IB, CPO or CTA) must have at least one principal who is registered as an AP or FB and who is approved as a Forex AP.

In addition, any RFED branch office must have a branch office manager who has taken the Series 30 exam and is an approved Forex AP.

The Commission’s final forex rules do not require Forex Firm IBs to be guaranteed. However, if a Forex Firm IB is guaranteed, the IB can only have one guarantor. In other words, an IB cannot be guaranteed by an FCM for futures business and a different RFED for forex business.

NFA has prepared a “Registration Overview for Retail Foreign Exchange Dealers and Forex IB, CTA and CPO Applicants” that provides additional registration information. You can also find information and guidance on NFA’s website.

Additionally, NFA’s Information Center (800-621-3570) is available from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.


Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP is a law firm and provides legal support and forex registration and compliance services to forex managers.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

Clarification on CFTC Final Retail Forex Regulations Forthcoming

Bart Mallon, Esq.

NFA to Issue Guidance on Regulations

Now that the CFTC has finalized the retail Forex regulations the Forex community will now set forth to figure out exactly what will be happening next.  Today I called the NFA to get clarification on a couple of items with respect to the new regulations and I was surprised to hear that the NFA is planning to release guidance on the new regulations tomorrow.  The representative that I spoke with did not know much about tomorrow’s release.  Below I discuss the issues which were the subject of the conversation as well as some general thoughts and questions that we will be working on over the next 6-8 weeks with respect to the new regulations.

Registration Required by October 18, 2010

The central question I had was whether managers (forex CTAs, CPOs) and introducing brokers would need to be actually registered (i.e. completes fingerprints and forex exams) by the time that the regulations are effective.  The NFA representative that I spoke with said that yes, forex managers would need to be registered by October 18, 2010.  This means that firms who provide investment advice with respect to retail forex will need to cease providing such advice unless the managers are registered with the NFA.  Even if a firm is registered, no APs of the firm may provide advice with respect to retail forex unless such APs have passed the Series 34 exam.  However, APs which were registered as such with the NFA on May 22, 2008 do not have to pass the Series 34.

Logistical Issues

If this is the case — and we will find out tomorrow — the requirement for forex managers and IBs to be registered by October 18 presents a number of logistical issues.

The first issue is that these managers will need to have passed both the Series 3 and Series 34 exams.  As many forex managers are not currently APs of a CFTC registered firm, they will generally not have the Series 3 exam.  The Series 3 exam has nothing to do with retail forex trading so persons without futures/commodities industry experience will need to take special care to prepare accordingly.  Managers will also need to have passed the Series 34 exam.  Studying for and passing both of these exams in the next 6 weeks or so is going to be very difficult.

The second issue will be whether the NFA staff can handle the increased amount of applications from forex managers.  The NFA has previously said that they specifically updated their systems to handle an increase in applications (because of forex registration requirements).  However, when I asked the NFA representative whether the NFA has hired additional staff to deal with the extra registrations, the NFA representative could not answer me – I suspect the answer is “no” the NFA has not hired additional examiners.

A second part of this issue involves the review and approval of disclosure documents.  Both forex CTAs and forex CPOs will need to have their disclosure documents reviewed by the NFA.  While registration can be completed fairly quickly if a manager has completed the forex exams and the fingerprint requirement, the disclosure document review process is not short.  Typically the review process will last anywhere from 4-8 weeks from the time that the disclosure documents are submitted to the NFA for review (which cannot be sooner than the date a firm is registered).  [Note: it is most common for the review process to take around 6-8 weeks depending on the nature of the forex firm.]  This means that even if a manager is able to complete the registration process by October 18, it is likely that the manager would not be able to conduct business if the disclosure documents were not approved, which could probably not happen by October 18 even if the manager completed registration tomorrow!  It is unclear whether the CFTC and NFA recognize this reality or whether they will grant an exception for managers who have made a good faith effort to comply with the registration requirements.

[Note: the NFA takes much longer to approve the applications for forex IBs – genrally it will take anywhere from 4-8 months for a forex IB to become registered.]

Other Issues

There are a number of other questions and issues which have arisen.  The following are some questions we are getting and our current responses:

How long will 100:1 leverage (majors) and 25:1 leverage (non-majors) be applicable? The NFA is now tasked with creating new leverage levels which cannot be exceed 50:1 (majors) or 20:1 (non-majors).  It would make sense if the current leverage levels remain in force until October 18, 2010.  The NFA is likely to propose rules with respect to leverage prior to October 18.

How will the Series 34 exam change? The current Series 34 exam is based on current NFA rules and bylaws which are currently in flux after the CFTC final forex regulations.  Test takers should note that certain questions may be asked on the exam which do not comport with current law and other rulemaking.  The NFA should be addressing this issue shortly.

Can managers manage accounts from the U.S. for only offshore investors at offshore forex dealers without registration? Probably not.  We are still trying to figure out how the final regulations deal with this issue.

Can traders move their forex trading to SEC registered broker dealers to get higher leverage? Probably not.  While the SEC will have jurisdiction over broker-dealers who want to offer retail forex, it is unlikely that the SEC will (under its own rulemaking) allow more leverage than the CFTC.  The SEC would likely defer to the CFTC with respect to the leverage requirements.  Also, FINRA recently proposed a leverage requirement for its member firms which was much lower than the current CFTC regulations.

Can individuals create accounts (either individually or through offshore companies) at offshore forex dealers in order to access higher leverage overseas? Probably not.  The major intent of Dodd-Frank and the final CFTC regulations was to keep U.S. citizens from trading with overseas brokers.  It is likely that the CFTC and NFA are going to take a hard stance on this issue.


Other related hedge fund law articles:

Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP. is a law firm and provides legal support and forex registration and compliance services to forex managers.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

CFTC Releases Final Retail Forex Rules

New Regulations Effective as of October 18, 2010

The final retail Forex regulations (which requires registration for forex CTAs, CPOs and IBs) have been published in the Federal Register.  The final regulations will be effective as of October 18, 2010.  The regulations were adopted essentially as written with the execption of two major issues:

  • Leverage – while the proposed rules called for a maximum leverage of 10:1, the final rules allow the NFA to determine the margin requirements for the currencies within a defined set of CFTC parmeters.  Currently the parameters include 50:1 leverage for major currencies and 20:1 leverage for all other currencies.
  • Forex Introducing Brokers – the proposed rules called for all forex introducing brokers to be guaranteed by a single FCM or RFED.  The final rules allow a forex introducing broker to be either guaranteed or independent, consistent with other regulated futures IBs.

We have not yet had a chance to talk with the NFA or the CFTC about the new rules, but we recommend that all groups who may have to register with the NFA to begin the forex registration process as soon as possible (which includes taking the Series 34 exam) because of the large amount of applications the NFA will receive because of the final regulations.

The full CFTC press release is reprinted below.


August 30, 2010

CFTC Releases Final Rules Regarding Retail Forex Transactions

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced the publication in the Federal Register of final regulations concerning off-exchange retail foreign currency transactions. The rules implement provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, which, together, provide the CFTC with broad authority to register and regulate entities wishing to serve as counterparties to, or to intermediate, retail foreign exchange (forex) transactions.

“These rules of the road will help protect the American public in the largest area of retail fraud that the CFTC oversees: retail foreign exchange,” CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler said. “All CFTC registrants involved in soliciting and selling retail forex contracts to consumers will now have to comply with rules to protect the investing public. This is also the first final rule that the Commission has published to implement the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. We look forward to publishing additional rules to protect the American public.”

The final forex rules put in place requirements for, among other things, registration, disclosure, recordkeeping, financial reporting, minimum capital and other business conduct and operational standards. Specifically, the regulations require the registration of counterparties offering retail foreign currency contracts as either futures commission merchants (FCMs) or retail foreign exchange dealers (RFEDs), a new category of registrant. Persons who solicit orders, exercise discretionary trading authority or operate pools with respect to retail forex also will be required to register, either as introducing brokers, commodity trading advisors, commodity pool operators (as appropriate) or as associated persons of such entities. “Otherwise regulated” entities, such as United States financial institutions and SEC-registered brokers or dealers, remain able to serve as counterparties in such transactions under the oversight of their primary regulators.

The final rules include financial requirements designed to ensure the financial integrity of firms engaging in retail forex transactions and robust customer protections. For example, FCMs and RFEDs are required to maintain net capital of $20 million plus 5 percent of the amount, if any, by which liabilities to retail forex customers exceed $10 million. Leverage in retail forex customer accounts will be subject to a security deposit requirement to be set by the National Futures Association within limits provided by the Commission. All retail forex counterparties and intermediaries will be required to distribute forex-specific risk disclosure statements to customers and comply with comprehensive recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

The final rules become effective October 18, 2010.

Last Updated: August 30, 2010


Other related hedge fund law articles:

Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP is a forex law firm and provides legal support and forex registration services to forex managers.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

NFA Registration for Forex Managers with a Disciplinary Record

In January 2010, the CFTC proposed rules regarding regulation of retail off-exchange foreign currency (forex) products.  It received over 9,000 comments relating to the forex rules and will start publishing final rules this fall. One component of the proposed rules requires all forex account managers and pool operators to register with the CFTC as forex CTAs and CPOs and to become NFA Members.  For those forex managers with criminal disclosures, a concern is how long it will take to get through the registration process and what registration will entail.

This article describes the registration process for forex managers with disciplinary disclosures and the issues they will likely face.

Anticipated Forex Registration Process

The forex registration procedures are likely going to be the same as those currently in place for regular CPOs and CTAs.  CPOs and CTAs must file the following:

  • a completed online Form 7-R (including NFA membership sections)
  • a non-refundable application fee
  • CPO/CTA Membership Dues

Principals and Associated Persons of a CPO or CTA must also file the following:

  • a completed online Form 8-R
  • Fingerprint Cards
  • Proficiency Requirements (e.g. Series 3)
  • a non-refundable Principal Application Fee
  • a non-refundable Associated Person Application Fee

In addition to providing the application materials discussed above, forex managers will likely have to meet regulatory exam requirements–the Series 34 and Series 3 exams.

Disciplinary Disclosures on Forms 7-R and 8-R

On Forms 7-R and 8-R, the manager must provide disciplinary information for the firm, the Principals, and the Associated Persons.  This includes criminal disclosures, regulatory disclosures, and financial disclosures.  The NFA has indicated that if any of the disciplinary information disclosed is a disqualification from registration under Sections 8a(2) or 8a(3) of the Commodity Exchange Act, the application will probably be reviewed by an internal NFA committee.

Disqualifications under Sections 8a(2) and (3) include, for example:

  • suspension or revocation of prior NFA registration
  • a permanent or temporary injunction from (i) acting as an FCM, IB, floor broker, floor trader, CTA, CPO, associated person, securities broker, etc.; or (ii) activity involving embezzlement, theft, extortion, fraud, misappropriation of funds, etc.
  • a conviction within 10 years for a felony that (i) involves transactions or advice concerning futures contracts; (ii) arises out of the conduct of the business of an FCM, IB, floor broker, CTA, CPO, etc.; or (iii) involves embezzlement, theft, extortion, fraud, misappropriation of funds, securities or property, forgery, etc.
  • a finding, by a federal or state regulatory body, that the manager has violated various securities and commodities laws

It is important to disclose all disciplinary matters.  Failure to disclose such matters could be an additional ground for disqualification from registration.  It is also important that if the forex manager answers “Yes” to any of the disciplinary information questions, he or she provides a written explanation detailing the events and conduct involved.  In addition to this explanation, other documents may also be required by the NFA (e.g. court records).  Failure to provide the additional documentation will inevitably delay the registration process.

Providing Additional Documents for Criminal Matters

If a criminal matter is disclosed, the NFA will want documents that reflect the following information:

  • the complaint;
  • the entry of a plea or plea agreement, or judgement/conviction;
  • the sentence;
  • proof that you completely satisfied your sentence; and
  • the final outcome of the court’s action .

It is probably best to request your entire court file so that the documents are available for the NFA.

Review by an Internal NFA Committee or Scheduling a Hearing

Upon receiving the application materials listed above (and any required supplemental documents (e.g. court records)), the reviewer will forward the case on to the internal NFA committee.  We spoke informally to an NFA reviewer who stated that the committee hears cases once a week, on a first-in, first-out basis.  That committee will review the circumstances of each disqualification independently and decide whether to approve registration or to recommend a proceeding to deny registration.  The NFA reviewer we spoke to said that a decision by this committee is generally made within 24 hours.  Upon approval, the firm will appear on the NFA’s BASIC search engine.  If the application is denied, a denial letter is sent to the manager.  A hearing can then be scheduled with the legal department and additional information regarding the registration may be provided.

At the end of the hearing, the registration is essentially either denied, approved, or approved with conditions.  It is difficult to predict the amount of time it would take for a forex manager with a criminal record to get through the NFA registration process.  If supplemental documents (e.g. court records) are missing, the reviewer will have to send deficiency letters to the manager, which will delay the registration process.


Other related hedge fund law articles:

Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides legal support and forex registration services to forex managers.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

Forex Registration Workshop Announced

NFA to Discuss Forex Registration in Vegas

The NFA announced a workshop to inform forex managers about the various registration and compliance matters that managers will need to be especially aware of during the registration process.  While we do not yet know what the final rules will look like, we do know a few things and believe that managers will need to focus on the following issues:

  • Series 34 exam – this is an exam specifically for forex managers.  In addition to the Series 34, the managers will most likely need to have passed the Series 3 exam as well.
  • Forex Compliance – all NFA registrants will need to make sure they are compliant with all CFTC laws and regulations in addition to NFA rules.
  • Forex Disclosure Documents – all forex CTAs and CPOs will need disclosure documents.  While these disclosure documents will be similar to traditional futures/commodities disclosure documents, there are some specific forex disclosures managers will also need to include in the documents.  As always, managers should remember that the disclosure documents and the managed account agreement are legal documents and should be drafted by an attorney.

The full NFA announcement is reprinted below.


NFA’s Registration/Compliance Workshops for Currently Unregistered Forex IBs, CPOs and CTAs in Conjunction with the Upcoming Futures and Forex Expo

Caesars Palace in Las Vegas
Saturday, September 25, 2010

In early 2010, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) published its proposed rules regarding the regulation of retail off-exchange foreign currency (forex) products. One component of the proposed rules requires all forex introducing brokers, account managers and pool operators to register with the CFTC as forex IBs, CTAs and CPOs and to become Members of National Futures Association (NFA).

In anticipation of the publication of the CFTC’s final rules, NFA will be offering registration/compliance workshops in conjunction with the upcoming Futures and Forex Expo to be held on September 23-25 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. These workshops will outline the registration process and discuss regulatory requirements for each registration category.

The schedule for the workshops is as follows:

  • 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. Registration workshop for all registration categories. This session will cover who has to register and will present a walkthrough of the registration process.
  • 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. General compliance workshop for all registration categories. This session will include discussion of NFA rules regarding promotional material/sales practices, supervisory procedures (including ethics training requirements, supervision of branch offices and disaster recovery/business continuity planning) and anti-money laundering requirements.
  • 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. Disclosure documents/financial requirements workshop for CPOs and CTAs, including performance reporting.
  • 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. NFA staff available for one-on-one consultations.

All workshops will be held in the Tribune Room in the Convention Center at Caesar’s Palace.

Although there is no fee to attend the workshops, advanced registration is recommended.


Other related forex law articles:

Cole-Frieman & Mallon LLP provides legal support, registration and compliance services to all types of forex managers.  Bart Mallon, Esq. can be reached directly at 415-868-5345.

Forex Hedge Fund Articles

Below are a list of the articles which are devoted to forex hedge funds and the regulations involved in the off-exchange foreign currency markets.  Please contact us if you would like to start a forex hedge fund or if you would like information related to the forex registration requirements.

Forex Overview

Forex Hedge Funds

Forex Registration

Series 34 Exam

Passing the Series 34 Exam

By Bart Mallon, Esq.

Discussion about How to Take and Pass the Series 34 Exam

On Thursday I took the Series 34 Exam and I passed.  I answered 30 out of 40 questions correctly for a 75% (it takes a 70% score to pass).  This score is not as good as I had hoped for, but it is good for a couple of reasons.  First, it proves that anyone can pass these exams without buying expensive study guides (I created a free Series 34 exam study guide).  Secondly, the exam gave me an opportunity to really see which areas the NFA is going to focus on therefore which areas of the study guide I needed to improve.

Score Breakdown

My scores broke down as follows:

  • Definitions and Terminology   7 of 10 (70%)
  • Forex Trading Calculations   6 of 8 (75%)
  • Risks Associated with Forex Trading   3 of 4 (75%)
  • Forex Market – Concepts, Theories, Economic Factors and Indicators, Participants   6 of 10 (60%)
  • Forex Regulatory Requirements   8 of 8 (100% – did you expect anything else from a forex attorney?)

Total Correct: 30 of 40

Time to complete the exam – approximately 42 minutes

What I exactly did to study for the exam

The way that I studied for the exam is likely to be different than the way that you study for the exam.  The time I spent creating definitions for each test topic can be spent memorizing the concepts and defintions.  As a brief overview, here is how I studied:

1.  Research to create free series 34 study guide.  Initially I researched all of the topics which were listed in the NFA study outline.  This took a good chunk of time as I had to read information from many different forex resources and then synthesize the information into a short description that I could understand and that would hopefully be helpful to forex managers.  Much of this research involved summarizing original NFA sources including NFA rules, interpretive releases and notices to members.  I also read through some of the good forex trading resources and provided links to these resources as appropriate.

2.  Created note cards.  After creating and posting the items on the checklist, I created note cards which were based on the study guide.  After creating the note cards I went through them a few times – I would imagine that it was about 8-10 times all the way through all together.  This is obviously not very much, but by creating the note cards I was able to ingrain the concepts faster.  There were a few concepts which I needed a little extra help with so I would focus on these note cards.

3.  Exam questions.  Two nights before the exam I reviewed the practice questions which I created.  I made a total of 16 fairly tough questions before the exam.  The night before the exam I re-read through all of the exam questions again.

4.  Final review.  On the night right before the exam I did a final real through of the important NFA resources and the forex trading guide.  I also did more drilling with my note cards and reviewed the exam questions a final time.  I also started an overview sheet which I will turn into another quick glance resource for this website.

Why I did not score as high as I would like

I have taken and passed a number of different proficiency exams which are administered by FINRA – the series 3, the series 7, the series 24, the series 63, the series 65, and now the series 34.   For each of these previous exams I prepared much better and accordingly received much higher scores.  Generally my scores were in the high 80% range (I don’t have the print outs anymore).  Here, my scores were not as high and I think it is for a couple of reasons:

1.  I did not do any practice calculations.  There were around five questions which really required the use of a calculator.  These questions included basic and more advanced calculations related to the actual profits and losses on positions.  There was also a question dealing with the price per pip calculation.  I feel that the reason I struggled with this part of the exam is that I did not really do any sort of practice problems on these types of calculations – I simply memorized the example I used in the definition.  I don’t believe that this is good enough if you want to make sure you will pass – because of this, I am going to create more practice questions related to the actual calculations.

Be prepared to use the calculator on the exam.  As an additional tip, do not spend too much time on one single problem – I must have spent a good 10 minutes on one calculation problem and after my calculations, I didn’t even come up with the right answer.  For this question I just had to guess.  There was another calculation problem which I made a more educated guess on as well.

2.  I did not focus really any of my study time on shorting currency pairs.  Because I spent no time even thinking about this, I was a bit unprepared for a couple of problems which discussed this as a possibility.  These questions were generally pretty basic questions and from previous study I was able to answer them correctly (I think).  For these questions I think that the series 3 exam and the series 7 exam helped in terms of general investment management knowledge.

3.  Ambiguously stated regulatory terms.  The exam included at least one question with ambiguously stated regulatory terms.  I believe the question made reference to a Member and Associated Member of some sort of regulated body.  These terms are not precise and do not make sense – there is no such thing as an associated member.  As I have discussed before the NFA is a self regulatory organization (SRO).  Firms must be Members of this SRO and the employees of the firm are termed “Associated Persons” or “Principals.”  I was not sure if this question was making reference to APs of a NFA Member firm.  I cannot remember how this worked out and I may have switched my answer at the very end (something you are not supposed to do).  This is one of the frustrating things about FINRA exams in general – it is not necessarily how much you know, but that you know how to take the exam.  This is more true with regard to the Series 7 and other exams, but it still holds true for this on

4.  Current Account, Capital Account, Balance of Trade and Balance of Payments.  I did not understand these concepts during my studies and still do not understand them.  The one phrase that I remembered is that the BOT is the largest part of BOP….and this was on the exam in some form.  I think there might have been another question on these issues which I likely answered incorrectly.

A note about pacing through the exam

One of the nice things about FINRA exams is that they always follow a very similar pattern.  At the beginning of the exam the questions will be easy and you will probably breeze through the first 5-8 questions.  From there the questions will begin to get tougher and somewhere around questions 20-28ish there are likely to questions which seem impossible.  It is at this point when the despair usually begins to kick in – REMEMBER THIS and keep it all in perspective.  You can miss a lot of questions and still pass.  After you make it though the tougher questions, the end is easy and you will likely breeze through the last 10 questions or so.  Like I said this is a common feature of FINRA exams and I have had the same exact feeling in each exam and really believed that I may not pass.

On the day of the exam

I scheduled my exam for 8:00am.  I always try to schedule these exams for the morning for a few reasons, the most important of which is that I just want to get the exam done with.  If I schedule the exam in the afternoon I am going to spend the day being distracted and trying to get extra studying in – this is just me, you should schedule your exam for the time you think you will be able to do your best.

I woke up at 5:40am, took out the dog, took a shower and was at the coffee shop by about 6:10.  I had a coffee and a bagel with cream cheese and then made my way to the bus stop.  I waited for the bus and went through my note cards on the bus ride down to the exam center.  After I got dropped off and walked to my exam center, it was 7:10am and I had a few minutes to kill before I was supposed to be at the center (FINRA recommends being at the testing center a half hour before the time which the exam starts).  I found a nearby bench and continued to go through my flash cards.  At 7:30am I made my way to the exam center and there were 7 people who were there before me.  I waited for the lady to check me in and I was finally seated by about 8:05am. After the exam I was given my print out and was on my way.  I would recommend eating more than I did; usually I am a bit more prepared but it seems to have turned out ok.

How would I study for the exam knowing what I know now.

The most important thing about this exercise of taking the exam is that I can share my experience with you before you take the exam.  Knowing what I know now, I would have modified my studying a little bit.  By far the easiest part of the exam were the regulatory questions – these were very basic and they could have been made harder.  The regulatory questions which I have included in my practice questions are harder (note: the structure of the regulatory questions may change in the future so I have deliberately made tougher questions with regard to the regulations).  As I said before there was a good mix of calculations which were necessary, so I would have focused on this more – during my study time I did not once touch a calculator.  I would have ingrained the American Terms and European Terms into my head from the beginning (this would have made it easier for me to focus on the concept tested instead of trying to first remember the definition).  These two terms user used to describe exchange rate quotes in many different contexts.  Besides these relatively minor modifications, I would have studied in a very similar matter – that is, making note cards, reading, making study guides, focusing on parts I was not quite as  confident about, etc.

For those persons who have not taken a FINRA exam before I highly recommend purchasing a study guide (or more than one study guide) which includes multiple exam prep questions.  Doing a large number of questions will help you when taking the actual exam.  The good thing is that you will generally take the series 3 exam before you take the series 34 exam and the series 3 is much more difficult than the series 34.  If you passed the 3 you will have an understanding of the pace of the exams, the types and styles of questions, and how to deal with more of the pedantic parts of the exam taking process (like showing up before, signing in, etc).

I would imagine that it would take someone 20 to 30 hours to properly prepare for the exam, spread out over a week or two weeks.  If someone is diligent about putting in this study time, there should be no problem passing the exam.  If you have specific questions, I have tried to answer these in other parts of the website.  Also, please feel free to contact me or leave a question below.

Reason for taking the exam – Forex Attorney and Develop Free Study Guide

As you may know I am an attorney with a practice focused on helping hedge fund managers start their hedge funds.   I also have a related compliance business which focuses on helping forex managers and forex introducing brokers register with the NFA (please see my other site devoted to forex registration information).  Through these ventures, I have clients who are involved in the forex area in many different respects and it is likely that these clients (including forex hedge fund managers) will need to take this test sometime in the future.  I believe that as a lawyer I am more effective if I can give my clients actual advice based on personal experience.

I also wanted to develop a free exam prep guide for the community – there is no reason why you should need to spend money on a study guide for this exam.  I am hoping that members of the community will be able to add to the guide over time and we can develop this into a very useful resource.


The Series 34 Exam is a passable exam and I believe I have provided forex managers with a lot of good information on the exam through these posts and through the free study guide.  Please help me to continue to make this resource and website useful for forex managers.

Discussion about Forex Registration and the Series 34 Exam


Creating Series 34 Exam Prep Materials

One central issue in the investment management industry is increases in regulation of previously unregulated or lightly regulated activities.  The major area which will see direct regulation within the next 12 months is the retail off-exchange foreign currency industry.  As we have discussed, forex managers and those parties which solicit retail forex investors are is expected to have to register with the NFA as forex CPOs, forex CTAs or forex introducing brokers.  As part of this process, individuals subject to registration are going to need to pass the Series 34 exam.  This article will discuss the exam and the new exam prep materials I have been creating to help managers pass the exam.

Overview of the Series 34 Exam

The Series 34 exam is a brand new test created by the NFA at the very end of last year. I have talked with the National Futures Association (which is the self regulatory organization in charge of the forex registration process) and they have told me that individuals can now take the Series 34 exam.  To take this exam individuals are going to need to submit a Form U-10, pay the $70 testing fee and sign up with either Pearson Vue or Prometric to actually take the exam.  The exam is 60 minutes long, has 40 questions and requires 70% correct answers for successful completion.

Series 34 Exam Preparation Materials

There are very few Series 34 materials out there for managers to study from.  I have talked with many different groups and they are planning on potentially releasing a Series 34 exam study guide, but these groups will be waiting until they are able to judge the demand for such a product.  Of course we cannot know the demand for the product until the CFTC proposes its forex registration rules, but it is a safe bet that many forex managers will need to take the exam.  Accordingly, I have started creating a free series 34 exam study guide for the general public.

The free series 34 exam study guide will provide an explanation of all of the major concepts that the NFA has stated will be covered in the exam.  I have provided in depth explanations on the concepts through my own research through many available online resources.  I believe that these materials will be strong, especially with regard to the regulatory requirements for forex managers – I have been reporting on these requirements now for over 6 months and have been able to cull together great resources.

In addition to the free guide, I will also have premium materials available for purchase.  These materials will include an outline, notecards, and practice questions.

  • The series 34 outline will be similar to an outline that you might see prepared for a law school exam – I have taken numerous exams (including many FINRA sponsored exams – Series 3, Series 7, Series 24, Series 63, Series 65) and have found that an outline is a great way to make sure all of the basic concepts are ingrained prior to taking the exam.
  • The series 34 notecards will be an exact replica of the notecards which I will use to study.  You can either print out the notecards and cut them out or you can copy the information onto individual notecards yourself.  I would recommend you write out the information onto individual notecards – in this way you enforce the learning process.  Probably my favorite way of studying is through notecards.  I can take them with me anywhere I am going and then study them when I am in line at a store, on a bus, during a TV commercial, etc.
  • The series 34 practice questions will be similar in style to the questions which you will expect to see on the exam.  I am going to write practice exam questions before I take the exam based on what material I think will be covered in the exam.  I am going to try to write toward areas of expected weakness so I anticipate the questions will be more difficult than those to be seen on the exam.  Additionally, I plan to go back and add more questions after I take the exam to best reflect the nature and difficulty of the questions on the exam.

Information on How to Study for the Series 34 Exam

The ultimate goal of the above exam prep materials is to provide forex managers with the tools they need in order to pass the test on the first try.  It is a waste of time and money to study and then not pass the test on the first time because of lack of preparation or study materials.  If the manager does not pass the exam on the first try, they will need to wait 30 days before they can take it again; if a manager does not pass the exam on the second try, they will need to wait 60 days before they can take it again.

As I have coached managers through the test taking process numerous times before I understand what is needed to pass on the first time – it is simply not enough to only read an exam prep guide.  You must read an exam prep guide and proactively study the concepts which will be tested.  Very smart people have failed the regulatory exams because of not properly studying.   You will need to over-study.

A common joke in the industry is that the perfect score is 70% because it means that you didn’t study too much to pass.  If someone else is paying for you to take the exam, and if you are still considered “on the clock” if you take time off of work to go take the exam, then this thinking may be fine (if you don’t mind taking tests) – however, for busy forex managers your time is too valuable to waste by not passing on the first try.  You should go into the test confident that you will pass and not hoping that you studied “just enough” to pass.

Series 3 Exam – A Pre-Requisite

While anyone can take the Series 34 exam, forex managers will likely need to have passed the Series 3 in addition to the Series 34 exam.  [HFLB Note: the CFTC has not promulgated rules on this issue so this is not a for sure requirement yet.]  I have taken the Series 3 exam and passed and provided more information here (general guidelines on how to study for a FINRA exam can be found here) – please review these articles in addition to the other resources linked on this page.

Timing of Materials Release

I should be able to release the materials later on this week.  I am currently planning to take the exam sometime this week.  I will update this article once the materials have been posted on our other websites.  In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any questions you might have.

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