The use of virtual meetings and video conferencing has exploded in recent months. FINRA has responded with new guidance about how its limits on gifts and entertainment expenses apply in a world where business meetings often don’t take place in person.
When a firm hosts a traditional, in-person meeting with institutional investors or other broker-dealers, reasonable expenses associated with these meetings don’t count toward FINRA’s $100 limit on gifts. A common example is the refreshments provided to those in attendance.
But what if you’re courting a new institutional investor through a virtual meeting? Are you allowed to have food and beverages delivered to those attending the meeting without worrying about the $100 limit on gifts? FINRA says yes, as long as the expenses are reasonable. According to FINRA:
[W]here a member firm’s associated persons personally host an interactive virtual business entertainment event or meeting, FINRA would view the associated persons’ provision of reasonable amounts of food and beverage … during that virtual business entertainment or meeting as not being subject to the $100 gift limit.
In order to keep your virtual meetings in compliance with this guidance, the refreshments:
- Cannot be so expensive “as to raise any question of propriety”
- Must be intended to be consumed at the meeting, by the attendees
- Cannot be conditioned on meeting a sales goal (for example, when meeting with associated persons of another broker-dealer, you can’t provide refreshments selectively to the high sellers)
- Cannot be used as a cover for providing something that is actually a gift (for example, a bottle of champagne meant for the attendee to take home)
The Solomon Exam Prep team is always on the lookout for how current developments affect the securities industry. For more updates from our Industry News blog, use the subscribe form on this page.