The North American Securities Administrators Association, Inc. (NASAA) announced its support for the Investor Choice Act of 2019 (S. 2992) in a June 2020 letter to the bill’s sponsor, United States Senator Jeff Merkley. NASAA is made up of securities administrators in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico. NASAA describes its mission as protecting consumers who purchase securities or investment advice. Its members have authority to investigate investor complaints, enforce state securities laws, and educate investors about their rights.
The Investor Choice Act would prohibit broker-dealers and other investment industry professionals from including mandatory arbitration requirements and prohibitions on class action lawsuits in contracts that many investor customers enter into to receive investment services. These provisions in customer agreements force investors to give up important legal rights to work with a financial professional. Arbitration requirements mean investors give up the right to bring claims in court and have a judge or jury resolve the dispute. Class action waivers make it difficult or impossible for investors with small or relatively small claims to obtain relief because the costs of individual cases often are greater than the potential recovery. For many investors who are the victims of fraud or other financial misconduct but who have relatively small claims, class action waivers mean that the defendant will never be held accountable for illegal acts.