A proposal by the National Association of Securities Dealers seeks to level the playing field between banks and other dealers that sell insured investments, such as certificates of deposit.
The regulator has put out for comment a plan that would require all brokerage firms that sell both insured and uninsured investment products to disclose the risk of the uninsured products they sell.
Currently, only bank broker-dealers must make such disclosures.
The proposal was discussed at the NASD's spring securities conference here last week.
Telling customers about investment risks is important at broker-dealers that sell certificates of deposit and other insured investments, and should not be limited to banks, said R. Clark Hooper, senior vice president in the NASD office of disclosure and investor protection.
Industry attorneys agreed.
"The biggest problems happen when people invest for the first time," said Donald W. Smith, a partner at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart, Washington.
"Disclosing investment risk will be a bigger issue as we see more securities sales on the Internet, from kiosks, and in supermarkets, and to people who have never been involved in securities markets before," he added. "It may be risky to assume that many securities purchasers are fully aware of the risks of investments."
The comment period ends June 30.
Other rules that currently apply only to bank brokerages may be modified to apply to all NASD members. One of these rules governs the sharing of confidential customer financial information with affiliated companies. The other covers paying fees to nonregistered employees for investment customer referrals.
"There's something to be said for a uniform rule, but I'm not sure where that should be," Mr. Smith said.