As we've discussed previously, we often hear from financial advisors looking to clean up their Form U4. Often these advisors are facing a criminal disclosure or have a U4 that reports an old criminal case from many years ago, perhaps from when they were very young. But increasingly, we receive calls from advisors who have a U4 disclosure listing a bankruptcy or a compromise with creditors.
There is no doubt that our country has faced economic and financial difficulties in recent years. Many Americans have struggled to make ends meet, some even seeing no other option but to declare bankruptcy. We sometimes hear from financial advisors who have faced this very situation and are now concerned about how a bankruptcy disclosure will affect their Form U4, and if there is any way to remove it.
Do I have to disclose a bankruptcy on my Form U4?
The most important thing to note here is that you are required to disclose a bankruptcy or a compromise with creditors on your Form U4. Like all other disclosure requirements, you must make this disclosure honestly and timely or you could face sanctions from FINRA for violating the disclosure obligations. Do not try to lie or hide anything—answer the questions truthfully and seek counsel if you have concerns. For more information on Form U4 disclosures, request our free Guide to a Cleaner Form U4.
Is it possible to remove a bankruptcy disclosure?
While you are required to report a bankruptcy on your Form U4, there will be an opportunity to remove the disclosure at some point, assuming that you do not repeatedly file for bankruptcy or are the subject of involuntary bankruptcy proceeding cases. You will notice that the vast majority of the U4 disclosure questions are not time-bound, meaning that you must disclose an event no matter how long ago it happened. For example, as we discussed in this blog, you must disclose a criminal charge even if it happened 30 years ago while you were 18 and in high school. However, the bankruptcy disclosure question does include a time frame, and limits the question to the past 10 years. While you are still required to disclose, this time limit is your avenue to removing the disclosure. Once 10 years have passed from the date of the bankruptcy, you can amend your Form U4 and answer the question of whether you have declared bankruptcy within the past ten years with a ‘no' answer.
Can anyone see a bankruptcy disclosure once it is amended?
When you amend your Form U4 once the bankruptcy is more than ten years old, the disclosure will go into archive status and remain in the CRD or IARD system. This means that while the disclosure will not be available to the general public on your Investor.gov or Brokercheck.com reports, it can still be accessed by your firm and regulators, as well as potential employers if you give them authority to run a full CRD or IARD background check.
Is there any other way to remove a bankruptcy disclosure from my Form U4?
This ten-year clause is typically the only way to remove a bankruptcy or compromise from your Form U4. We have seen cases where the disclosure was made in error and could potentially be removed, but these are rare. If you think your disclosure may fall into this category, give us a call at (678) 344-5342 to discuss your situation.
Contact The Beck Law Firm, LLC if you have a bankruptcy or compromise disclosure and need advice. For more information on the Form U4, you can also download our free Guide to a Cleaner Form U4, Financial Advisor's Guide to Regulatory Investigations, and Financial Advisor's Guide to Arrests, Criminal Disclosures, and Related Form U4 Issues.