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Financial Services Professionals

In today’s intricate financial landscape, the role of Financial Services Professionals is more critical than ever. These professionals, guided by organizations like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and regulated by various bodies including State Boards of Accountancy and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), are entrusted with upholding the highest standards of ethical and professional conduct.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the national professional organization for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in the United States. While its primary focus is on establishing professional standards for accounting and auditing, offering educational resources, and providing certification opportunities, it does not have a specific regulatory mandate concerning personal behaviors like substance abuse or alcoholism among its members.

However, the AICPA does emphasize professional and ethical behavior among CPAs. Here’s how the AICPA might indirectly address issues related to substance abuse and alcoholism:

Code of Professional Conduct
The AICPA maintains a Code of Professional Conduct that all members must adhere to. While this code doesn’t explicitly address substance abuse or alcoholism, it does emphasize the need for professional competence, due care, and ethical behavior. If a CPA’s substance abuse interferes with their professional duties or leads to unethical behavior, it could be considered a violation of this code.
Peer Review
The AICPA has a Peer Review Program where CPA firms review each other’s work. If substance abuse or alcoholism were to affect the quality of a firm’s work, it might come to light during such a review.
Continuing Professional Education (CPE)
While the AICPA’s courses primarily focus on technical and professional topics, there are courses related to personal development and well-being. It’s possible that some of these could touch upon issues related to substance abuse or stress management.
Referral to State CPA Societies or Boards
The actual licensure and regulation of individual CPAs are handled at the state level by State Boards of Accountancy. If the AICPA becomes aware of serious professional misconduct related to substance abuse, it could refer the matter to the relevant state board or society.
Awareness and Advocacy
While not a direct intervention, the AICPA, through its various communication channels, can raise awareness about the importance of mental health, stress management, and the dangers of substance abuse within the profession.
Member Assistance Programs
Some state CPA societies, which are affiliated with the AICPA but operate independently, might offer Member Assistance Programs (MAPs) or similar resources. These programs could support CPAs dealing with personal challenges, including substance abuse.
While the AICPA emphasizes professional and ethical standards, it does not directly regulate substance abuse or alcoholism among CPAs. However, the AICPA can indirectly promote awareness, provide educational resources, and set the tone for professional behavior within accounting. State Boards of Accountancy or other relevant state entities would more directly handle individual interventions and regulatory actions.

State Boards of Accountancy

State Boards of Accountancy are the primary entities responsible for the licensure and regulation of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in their respective states. The approach to substance abuse and alcoholism may vary from one state to another. Still, many state boards have mechanisms to address these issues if they impact a CPA’s professional performance or the public’s trust.

Here are some general ways in which these boards might handle substance abuse and alcoholism:

State Boards of Accountancy typically have codes of professional conduct or ethics rules that CPAs must adhere to. While these codes might not explicitly mention substance abuse or alcoholism, they emphasize professional competence, objectivity, and integrity. A CPA impaired by substance abuse could be found in violation of these standards.
If a complaint is filed against a CPA, suggesting that substance abuse or alcoholism affects their professional performance, the state board can initiate an investigation. This might involve reviewing work, interviewing colleagues or clients, or other steps to assess the situation.
If a CPA’s substance abuse or alcoholism leads to professional misconduct, state boards can take disciplinary actions. This might include censures, fines, mandatory educational or treatment programs, license suspensions, or revocation.
Some state boards may offer or recognize rehabilitation programs tailored for accountants struggling with substance abuse or other personal challenges. Completing such a program might factor in license reinstatement or leniency in disciplinary proceedings.
In some states, there might be requirements for CPAs or their employers to report known impairments or professional issues stemming from substance abuse.
During the license renewal process, some state boards might ask questions related to substance use, criminal convictions, or mental health. Honest disclosures might lead to further inquiry or, in some cases, support and resources.
Some State Boards of Accountancy, often in conjunction with state CPA societies, might provide resources, hotlines, or referral services to help CPAs struggling with substance abuse or alcoholism.
As part of ongoing education requirements, some state boards might encourage or mandate courses that address well-being, ethics, or even substance abuse prevention.
For CPAs who’ve faced disciplinary actions related to substance abuse, state boards may have a process for license reinstatement, which could involve proving sustained sobriety, undergoing periodic monitoring, or completing additional educational requirements.
It’s important to note that the specific mechanisms and resources available can vary widely from one state to another. For detailed information, one would need to consult the regulations and resources of the State Board of Accountancy.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)

This is the main regulatory body for all securities firms that do business with the public in the United States. It is a non-governmental organization under the supervision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). FINRA is responsible for:

FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, primarily regulates broker-dealers to ensure market integrity and protect investors. While FINRA does not directly restrict personal behavior such as substance abuse or alcoholism, it is interested in providing that associated persons (e.g., registered representatives or brokers) act with integrity and in the best interests of their clients.

Here are ways FINRA indirectly addresses issues related to substance abuse and alcoholism:

Rule Violations
If a broker’s substance abuse or alcoholism leads to violations of securities laws or FINRA rules, such as stealing from customers, providing misleading information, or other unethical behavior, FINRA can take disciplinary action.
Educational Efforts
While not directly related to substance abuse, FINRA does engage in efforts to educate brokers about ethics, professional conduct, and related issues. It’s conceivable that firms might address substance abuse within the broader context of these educational initiatives.
Fitness for Membership
FINRA has the authority to evaluate and potentially deny a broker’s or firm’s membership if they believe the individual’s or firm’s behavior poses a risk to the public. Issues with substance abuse could potentially influence this evaluation, mainly if they have led to regulatory or criminal actions.
Personal Conduct Disclosures
Brokers must report certain personal events on Form U4 (Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration). Some of these events might be related to substance abuse or alcoholism, such as criminal convictions or certain financial events like bankruptcies that could result from substance abuse issues. This information becomes part of the broker’s public record, which can be checked using FINRA’s BrokerCheck service.
However, FINRA does not directly provide interventions for substance abuse or alcoholism. Firms and employers within the industry might offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) or other resources to help employees struggling with these issues. Still, those interventions would be at the firm’s discretion, not mandated by FINRA.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

The SEC is a federal agency responsible for enforcing federal securities laws and regulating the securities industry, stock, and options exchanges. While FINRA is responsible for day-to-day oversight and enforcement of rules governing broker-dealers, the SEC oversees the overall framework. It has oversight authority over FINRA and other self-regulatory organizations. Any rule changes or new regulations proposed by FINRA must be approved by the SEC.

Depending on the specific financial activities a broker engages in, they might also be subject to regulation and oversight by other entities like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which regulates the commodity futures and options markets in the U.S.

Additionally, each state in the U.S. has its own securities regulator that oversees the activities of brokers and other financial professionals within its jurisdiction.

The SEC does not directly regulate or provide interventions for personal behaviors like substance abuse or alcoholism. However, there are indirect ways in which issues related to substance abuse could intersect with SEC regulations:

Here’s how most State Boards of Nursing typically approach substance abuse and alcoholism among nurses:

  1. Professional Misconduct: If a person’s substance abuse or alcoholism results in professional misconduct that violates securities laws (e.g., embezzlement, fraud, or providing misleading information), the SEC can take enforcement action against that individual or the firm they represent.
  2. Disclosure and Reporting Requirements: Publicly traded companies must disclose material events and information that might affect their financial performance or an investor’s decision to buy or sell their securities. If a high-ranking executive’s substance abuse or alcohol-related behavior is deemed material to the company’s operations, it might need to be disclosed.
  3. Fitness and Integrity: While the SEC does not specifically screen for substance abuse, evidence suggesting a person lacks the character or fitness to be involved in the securities industry could influence decisions, especially if such issues lead to legal or regulatory complications.
The SEC does not provide specific interventions for substance abuse or alcoholism. Its role is primarily regulatory. Firms within the securities industry might have internal policies or employee assistance programs (EAPs) to address and support these personal issues. Still, such interventions are typically outside the purview of the SEC.
KRISTINA ROBERTSON, LMSW, LCDC

KRISTINA ROBERTSON

LMSW, LCDC | Counselor
Kristina Robertson serves as Counselor at Burning Tree Ranch. Holding both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Social Work, Kristina’s greatest joy is “watching our clients learn to love themselves again.” An avid equestrian, mother to twenty-one horses, and all-around animal lover, Kristina serves as a bright shining example of long-term recovery in action. Her commitment to whole person health: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual makes her an invaluable member of the Burning Tree Ranch clinical team. As a distinguished Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Zeta member, Kristina believes deeply in each client’s pursuit of becoming their best selves.

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