17 CFR Appendix B to Part 3, Statement of Acceptable Practices With Respect to Ethics Training
(a) The provisions of Section 4p(b) of the Act ( 7 U.S.C. 6p(b) (1994)) set forth requirements regarding training of registrants as to their responsibilities to the public. This section requires the Commission to issue regulations requiring new registrants to attend ethics training sessions within six months of registration, and all registrants to attend such training on a periodic basis. The awareness and maintenance of professional ethical standards are essential elements of a registrant's fitness. Further, the use of ethics training programs is relevant to a registrant's maintenance of adequate supervision, a requirement under Rule 166.3.
(1) The Commission recognizes that technology has provided new, faster means of sharing and distributing information. In view of the foregoing, the Commission has chosen to allow registrants to develop their own ethics training programs. Nevertheless, futures industry professionals may want guidance as to the role of ethics training. Registrants may wish to consider what ethics training should be retained, its format, and how it might best be implemented. Therefore, the Commission finds it appropriate to issue this Statement of Acceptable Practices regarding appropriate training for registrants, as interpretative guidance for intermediaries on fitness and supervision. Commission registrants may look to this Statement of Acceptable Practices as a “safe harbor” concerning acceptable procedures in this area.
(2) The Commission believes that section 4p(b) of the Act reflects an intent by Congress that industry professionals be aware, and remain abreast, of their continuing obligations to the public under the Act and the regulations thereunder. The text of the Act provides guidance as to the nature of these responsibilities. As expressed in section 4p(b) of the Act, personnel in the industry have an obligation to the public to observe the Act, the rules of the Commission, the rules of any appropriate self-regulatory organizations or contract markets (which would also include registered derivatives transaction execution facilities), or other applicable federal or state laws or regulations. Further, section 4p(b) acknowledges that registrants have an obligation to the public to observe “just and equitable principles of trade.”
(3) Additionally, section 4p(b) reflects Congress' intent that registrants and their personnel retain an up-to-date knowledge of these requirements. The Act requires that registrants receive training on a periodic basis. Thus, it is the intent of Congress that Commission registrants remain current with regard to the ethical ramifications of new technology, commercial practices, regulations, or other changes.
(c) The Commission believes that training should be focused to some extent on a person's registration category, although there will obviously be certain principles and issues common to all registrants and certain general subjects that should be taught. Topics to be addressed include:
(1) An explanation of the applicable laws and regulations, and the rules of self-regulatory organizations or contract markets and registered derivatives transaction execution facilities;
(2) The registrant's obligation to the public to observe just and equitable principles of trade;
(3) How to act honestly and fairly and with due skill, care and diligence in the best interests of customers and the integrity of the market;
(4) How to establish effective supervisory systems and internal controls;
(5) Obtaining and assessing the financial situation and investment experience of customers;
(6) Disclosure of material information to customers; and
(7) Avoidance, proper disclosure and handling of conflicts of interest.
(d) An acceptable ethics training program would apply to all of a firm's associated persons and its principals to the extent they are required to register as associated persons. Additionally, personnel of firms that rely on their registration with other regulators, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be provided with ethics training to the extent the Act and the Commission's regulations apply to their business.
(e) As to the providers of such training, the Commission believes that classes sponsored by independent persons, firms, or industry associations would be acceptable. It would also be permissible to conduct in-house training programs. Further, registrants should ascertain the credentials of any ethics training providers they retain. Thus, persons who provide ethics training should be required to provide proof of satisfactory completion of the proficiency testing requirements applicable to the registrant and evidence of three years of relevant industry or pedagogical experience in the field. This industry experience might include the practice of law in the fields of futures or securities, or employment as a trader or risk manager at a brokerage or end-user firm. Likewise, the Commission believes that registrants should employ as ethics training providers only those persons they reasonably believe in good faith are not subject to any investigations or to bars to registration or to service on a self-regulatory organization governing board or disciplinary panel.
(1) With regard to the frequency and duration of ethics training, it is permissible for a firm to require training on whatever periodic basis and duration the registrant (and relevant self-regulatory organizations) deems appropriate. It may even be appropriate not to require any such specific requirements as, for example, where ethics training could be termed ongoing. For instance, a small entity, sole proprietorship, or even a small section in an otherwise large firm, might satisfy its obligation to remain current with regard to ethics obligations by distribution of periodicals, legal cases, or advisories. Use of the latest information technology, such as Internet websites, can be useful in this regard. In such a context, there would be no structured classes, but the goal should be a continuous awareness of changing industry standards. A corporate culture to maintain high ethical standards should be established on a continuing basis.
(2) On the other hand, larger firms which transact business with a larger segment of the public may wish to implement a training program that requires periodic classwork. In such a situation, the Commission believes it appropriate for registrants to maintain such records as evidence of attendance and of the materials used for training. In the case of a floor broker or floor trader, the applicable contract market or registered derivatives transaction execution facility should maintain such evidence on behalf of its member. This evidence of ethics training could be offered to demonstrate fitness and overall compliance during audits by self-regulatory organizations, and during reviews of contract market or registered derivatives transaction execution facility operations.
(g) The methodology of such training may also be flexible. Recent innovations in information technology have made possible new, fast, and cost-efficient ways for registrants to maintain their awareness of events and changes in the commodity interest markets. In this regard, the Commission recognizes that the needs of a firm will vary according to its size, personnel, and activities. No format of classes will be required. Rather, such training could be in the form of formal class lectures, video presentation, Internet transmission, or by simple distribution of written materials. These options should provide sufficiently flexible means for adherence to Congressional intent in this area.
(h) Finally, it should be noted that self-regulatory organizations and industry associations will have a significant role in this area. Such organizations may have separate ethics and proficiency standards, including ethics training and testing programs, for their own members.