Some of the nation's leading brokerage firms have been committing petty larceny against their customers by setting up bank accounts in remote areas to prolong use of their customers fund, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The SEC also listed several other such abuses by broker-dealers, including retention of interest and dividends owed to customers and increasing commission rates without proper notices.
In a warning issued yesterday to broker-dealers, the SEC said that "action to correct these abuses is overdue and should be undertaken promptly broker-dealers and self-regulatory organizations."
Responding to the SEC warning, Edward I. O'Brien, president of the Securities Industry Association said: "There isn't any fraud intended or practiced by any broker-dealer in any of these practices."
The commission issued the release after making inquiries into "numerous complaints received from customers of broker-dealers throughout the country."
In so-called "remote checking" practices, the SEC said, "some brokerage firms have implemented a policy of paying customers located east of the Mississippi with checks drawn on West Coast banks and paying customers located west of the Mississippi with checks drawn on East Coast banks."
The commission said that certain broker-dealers have acknowledged doing this "specifically to prolong the firms' use of customers' fund."
The SEC said that "one of the most common customer complaints" is broker-dealers raising their commission rates without adequate notice to customers. This practice has been prevalent since the abolition of fixed commission rates in May, 1975.
Another practice frowned upon by the commission is the disbursement of dividends and interest payments of customers monthly rater than promptly, without giving the customers any notice of the policy.
The broker-dealers were also warned against imposing custodial fees on inactive accounts without telling the customer.
They were also told to transfer accounts promptly to another broker-dealers when a customer requests it.
Customers who believe they are victims of these practices were urged to write the SEC at 500 North Capitol St. N.W., Washington D.C. 20549.