On October 16, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) published Regulatory Notice 17-32 (Notice), which reminds FINRA member firms of their sale practice obligations related to the sale of volatility-linked exchange-traded products (ETPs), which are designed to track Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX) futures. Based on the high likelihood that such instruments may lose value over time, FINRA notes that volatility-linked ETPs may not be suitable for certain retail investors, in particular those who use them as part of a buy-and-hold strategy; and that because of the complex nature of these instruments, it is possible that investors and registered representatives may not understand the risks of the product. Based on the risk profile of these investments, the Notice reminds member firms of the need to (among other things) (1) perform reasonable diligence to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to believe that each such ETP is suitable for at least some investors prior to recommending the ETP; (2) form a reasonable belief that a recommended volatility-linked ETP is suitable for particular investors to whom it is recommended; (3) provide investors with fair and accurate communications with respect to these products; and (4) consider implementation of heightened scrutiny and supervision to ensure that registered representatives and supervisors understand the risks of the instruments and comply with applicable suitability and communications obligations.

A copy of the Notice is available here.