Online stock-trading platform Robinhood is facing a wave of regulatory scrutiny, including several investigations by authorities concerning its options-trading practices and outages its platform suffered last year. Two of its subsidiaries are in settlement talks with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) related to these probes.
According to a regulatory filing Friday, Robinhood Financial (RHF), a wholly owned subsidiary of Robinhood Markets, and Robinhood Securities (RHS) are engaged in discussions with FINRA staff regarding a “possible negotiated resolution of certain FINRA matters.” The outages being probed occurred in March 2020 and prevented customers from placing trades. “RHF and RHS anticipate that any resolution, if reached, would involve charges of violations of FINRA rules, a fine, customer restitution, a censure, and a compliance consultant,” the company said.
Robinhood said it expects these investigations to cost it at least $26.6 million, according to the filing. “We cannot predict, however, whether these discussions will result in a resolution of these matters,” the company said.
In addition to FINRA, Robinhood is being scrutinized by the Securities and Exchange Commission and state regulatory authorities over similar matters. The staff of these regulatory bodies are reviewing, among other things, how RHF “displays cash and buying power to customers and its options trading approval processes,” the filing states. RHF said it’s cooperating with these requests.
More legal challenges
Robinhood is the target of further investigations related to its controversial move to limit the trading of certain stocks during the GameStop surge earlier this year. The company described the choice as a “risk-management decision.”
The inherent riskiness of the platform itself has also landed Robinhood in hot water. As an app that allows inexperienced investors to buy and sell shares, Robinhood is the target of criticism that users are taking financial risks they don’t fully understand. One particular lawsuit, filed by the family of Alexander Kearns—a Robinhood customer who took his own life after believing he had incurred significant options-trading losses—asserts claims for “wrongful death, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and unfair business practices under California statute, and seeks damages and other relief,” according to the company’s filing.
In December 2020, RHF agreed to a $65 million settlement with the SEC for misleading customers over how it makes money and for failing to secure the best sale prices.