Rating Brokerage Firms by Their Complaint Histories Rather Than by Their Brokers' Histories
In our previous research, we ranked brokerage firms based on the proportion of their brokers on December 31, 2015 who had been associated with at least one resolved customer complaint. That approach assigns a higher ranking to a firm if a larger proportion of its current brokers have one or more resolved customer complaint in their career, regardless whether the complaints occurred at their current employer or at a prior employer.
Our new research ranks brokerage firms based on the frequency of customer complaints over conduct at each firm, including both resolved and pending. That is, we rank firms based on their history rather than on their current brokers' histories.
How Widespread and Predictable is Stock Broker Misconduct?
Published in The Journal of Index Investing, Summer 2017, Vol. 26, Issue 2, pp. 6-25.
In this paper we reconcile widely diverging recent estimates of broker misconduct. Qureshi and Sokobin report that 1.3% of current and past brokers are associated with awards or settlements in excess of a threshold amount. Egan, Matvos, and Seru find that 7.8% of current and former brokers have financial misconduct disclosures including customer complaints, awards, and settlements.
We replicate and extend the analysis of broker misconduct in these studies. Qureshi and Sokobin arrive at their low estimate by excluding 85% of all brokers, including those brokers most likely to have engaged in misconduct. Applying Qureshi and Sokobin's restrictive definition of potential misconduct to all brokers, we find that misconduct is much more widespread.
We also evaluate Qureshi and Sokobin's claim that its BrokerCheck website provides helpful information to investors seeking to avoid bad brokers and answer the question posed by Egan, Matvos, and Seru: If BrokerCheck data can identify broker misconduct, why don't investors use that data to protect themselves? We find that BrokerCheck is worthless in its current hobbled form, but that it could easily be modified so that market forces might substantially reduce broker misconduct.