The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) today announced its 2018 examination priorities. OCIE publishes its exam priorities annually to improve compliance, prevent fraud, monitor risk, and inform policy. Of particular interest this year will be matters involving critical market infrastructure, duties to retail investors, and developments in cryptocurrency, initial coin offerings, and secondary market trading.

“I appreciate OCIE’s dedication to maximizing the effectiveness of their resources with a keen eye toward asset verification, market infrastructure, and duties owed to retail investors,” said SEC Chairman Jay Clayton.

“As the markets continually evolve and the products and services available to investors adapt, OCIE remains committed in its risk-based examination program to prioritizing the interests of retail investors and examining those aspects of securities firms posing risks to investors and the proper functioning of our capital markets,” said OCIE Director Pete Driscoll.

This year, OCIE’s examination priorities are broken down into five categories:  (1) compliance and risks in critical market infrastructure; (2) matters of importance to retail investors, including seniors and those saving for retirement; (3) FINRA and MSRB; (4) cybersecurity; and (5) anti-money laundering programs.

Compliance and Risks in Critical Market Infrastructure – OCIE will continue to examine entities that provide services critical to the proper functioning of capital markets. OCIE will conduct examinations of these firms which include, among others, clearing agencies, national securities exchanges, and transfer agents, focusing on certain aspects of their operations and compliance with recently effective rules.

Retail Investors, Including Seniors and Those Saving for Retirement – Protecting Main Street investors continues to be a priority in 2018. OCIE will focus examinations on the disclosure and calculation of fees, expenses, and other charges investors pay, the supervision of representatives selling products and services to investors, and the execution of customer orders in fixed income securities. OCIE will continue to monitor the growth of cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings and examine registrants involved in their offer and sale to ensure that investors receive adequate disclosures about the risks associated with these investments.

FINRA and MSRB – OCIE will continue its oversight of FINRA by focusing examinations on FINRA’s operations and regulatory programs and the quality of FINRA’s examinations of broker-dealers and municipal advisors. OCIE will also examine MSRB to evaluate the effectiveness of select operations and internal policies, procedures, and controls.

Cybersecurity – Each of OCIE’s examination programs will prioritize cybersecurity with an emphasis on, among other things, governance and risk assessment, access rights and controls, data loss prevention, vendor management, training, and incident response.

Anti-Money Laundering Programs – Examiners will review for compliance with applicable anti-money laundering requirements, including whether firms are appropriately adapting their AML programs to address their regulatory obligations.

The published priorities for 2018 are not exhaustive. Further, additional priorities may be added in light of market conditions or as OCIE identifies emerging risks and trends. The collaborative effort to formulate the annual examination priorities starts with feedback from examination staff, who are uniquely positioned to identify the practices, products, and services that may pose significant risk to investors or the financial markets. OCIE staff also seek advice of the Chairman and Commissioners, staff from other SEC Divisions and Offices, the SEC’s Investor Advocate, and the SEC’s fellow regulators.

See original press release here.