ITEM 1. BUSINESS
Overview of Company
Siebert Financial Corp., together with its subsidiaries, is a diversified financial services firm and provides a full range of brokerage and financial advisory services including securities brokerage, investment advisory and insurance offerings, and corporate stock plan administration solutions. Our firm is characterized by building solid relationships with our clients through exceptional personal service and proven performance. We have a strong legacy and continue to evolve in our approach to take advantage of ever-evolving opportunities in the financial services industry.
We conduct the following lines of business through our wholly-owned and majority-owned subsidiaries:
Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc. (“MSCO”) provides retail brokerage services. MSCO is a Delaware corporation and broker-dealer registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and the Commodity Exchange Act of 1936, and member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”), the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (“SIPC”), Euroclear, and the National Futures Association (“NFA”).
Siebert AdvisorNXT, Inc. (“SNXT”) provides investment advisory services. SNXT is a New York corporation registered with the SEC as a Registered Investment Advisor (“RIA”) under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”).
Park Wilshire Companies, Inc. (“PW”) provides insurance services. PW is a Texas corporation and licensed insurance agency
Siebert Technologies, LLC. (“STCH”) provides robo-advisory technology development. STCH is a Nevada limited liability company.
RISE Financial Services, LLC, (“RISE”) is a Delaware limited liability company and a broker-dealer registered with the SEC and NFA.
StockCross Digital Solutions, Ltd. (“STXD”) is an inactive subsidiary headquartered in Bermuda.
For purposes of this Annual Report, the terms “Siebert,” “Company,” “we,” “us” and “our” refer to Siebert Financial Corp., MSCO, SNXT, PW, STCH, RISE, and STXD collectively, unless the context otherwise requires.
Our headquarters are located at 535 Fifth Avenue, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10017, with primary operations in New Jersey, Florida, and California. Our phone number is (212) 644-2400 and our Internet address is www.siebert.com. We have 12 branch offices throughout the U.S. and clients around the world.
As of March 20, 2023, we had 117 full-time employees. Our common stock is registered under Section 12 of the Exchange Act, and we file periodic reports with the SEC, including annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and proxy and information statements on Schedule 14. The SEC maintains a website (www.sec.gov) that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding companies that file documents electronically with the SEC. Our SEC filings are also available through our website at www.siebert.com, where investors are able to obtain copies of our public filings free of charge. Our common stock, par value $.01 per share trades on the Nasdaq Capital Market under the symbol “SIEB.”
Subsidiaries and Business Offerings
Muriel Siebert & Co., Inc.
MSCO has been providing online and traditional discount brokerage services to clients for over 50 years. MSCO was founded in 1967 by Muriel F. (“Mickie”) Siebert, a trailblazer who was the first woman to own a seat on the NYSE and the first to head one of its member firms. On May 1, 1975, after the federal government banned fixed commissions by brokers, Mickie broke barriers and declared MSCO a discount brokerage firm.
In May 2022, MSCO received approval to expand its clearing services in the U.S. by acting as a correspondent clearing firm for institutional and online broker-dealers, registered investment advisors and other asset managers. Achieving this milestone strengthens our core competencies, diversifies our business, and reinforces our commitment as a strategic partner to our clients.
Today, MSCO offers a wide range of products and services and is the primary subsidiary of Siebert.
Products and Services
Market making and fixed income investments
Stock borrow / stock loan
Equity compensation plans (Siebert Corporate Services)
Wealth management / financial advice
Brokerage and Related Services
MSCO offers a wide selection of quality investment services, including broker assisted trades and free online self-service features such as real time quotes, market data, and trading tools.
MSCO is a self-clearing broker-dealer and also clears with National Financial Services Corp. (“NFS”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of FMR, LLC.
Securities Finance and Market Making
We make markets in multiple exchanges and in over 2,000 equity securities and fixed income products. The client service offerings within our Market Making division have evolved with capital markets and different trading strategies. Our strengths include trading experience in domestic markets, enhanced liquidity, and the search for significant price improvement. The ability of our Market Making division to execute large orders continues to be a strategic advantage in supporting the growth of our Corporate Services division.
We operate our Securities Finance Group, a division which consists primarily of our stock borrow / stock loan and related services. Our management team brings decades of securities finance experience and we have seen positive results in recent years and are committed to continue to expand our securities finance operations.
We are dedicated to helping publicly traded companies and their employees manage their equity compensation plans. Corporate services is a key component of our business, and we leverage our technology partnerships to create a distinct advantage through FIX connection trading and real-time transaction reporting. Our corporate services offering primarily supports small and mid-cap public companies.
Independent Retail Execution Services
MSCO and its clearing firms monitor order flow in efforts to ensure that customers are getting the best possible trade executions. All equity orders are routed in a manner intended to afford MSCO’s customers the most favorable terms on all orders. MSCO also offers customers execution services through various market centers for an additional fee, providing customers access to numerous market centers before and after regular market hours. Customers may buy or sell fixed income securities, municipal bonds, corporate bonds, mortgage-backed securities, government sponsored enterprises, unit investment trusts, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, and other securities. These transactions are serviced by MSCO’s registered representatives.
Retail Customer Service
MSCO believes that its superior customer service enhances its ability to compete with larger brokerage firms and provides retail customers with personal service via access to dedicated customer service personnel for all of its products and services. Customer service personnel, located in MSCO’s branch offices, are cross trained to assist with all clients’ needs for a reliable experience. MSCO uses a variety of customer relationship management systems that enables representatives in any location to review and respond to customers’ requests in a timely manner.
MSCO offers customers a variety of self-directed retirement accounts. Each IRA, SEP IRA, ROTH IRA, and KEOGH account can be invested in a variety of qualified investments in a consolidated account. MSCO acts as its own custodian for retirement accounts and also utilizes NFS for IRA custody. MSCO offers self-directed retirement accounts and also has registered representatives dedicated to assisting clients in meeting their retirement goals.
Customer margin accounts are carried whereby money is lent to customers for a portion of the market value of marginable securities held in the customer’s account. Margin loans are collateralized by these securities. Customers also may sell securities short in a margin account, subject to minimum equity and applicable margin requirements, and the availability of such securities to be borrowed. In permitting customers to engage in margin financing, short sale or any other transaction, MSCO assumes the risk of its customers’ failure to meet their obligations in the event of adverse changes in the market affect the value of the margined securities positions. MSCO and NFS reserve the right to set margin requirements higher than those established by the Federal Reserve System.
MSCO has established policies with respect to maximum purchase commitments for new customers or customers with inadequate collateral to support a requested purchase. When transactions occur outside normal guidelines, MSCO monitors accounts closely until their payment obligations are completed. If the customer does not meet the required commitments, MSCO takes steps to close out the position and minimize any loss. In the last five years, MSCO has not had any significant losses as a result of customers failing to meet commitments.
Information and Communications Systems
MSCO relies heavily on its data technology platform and the platform provided by its clearing agents. These platforms offer interfaces to MSCO’s clearing service providers’ computing systems where all customer account records are kept and are accessible through MSCO’s data technology platform. MSCO’s systems also utilize browser-based access and other types of data communications. MSCO’s representatives use NFS systems, by way of MSCO’s data technology platform, to perform daily operational functions which include trade entry, trade reporting, clearing-related activities, risk management and account maintenance.
MSCO’s data technology platform offers services used in direct relation to customer activities as well as support for corporate use. Some of these services include email and messaging, market data systems and third-party trading systems, business productivity tools and customer relationship management systems. MSCO’s data network is designed with redundancies in case a significant business disruption occurs.
To ensure reliability and to conform to regulatory requirements related to business continuity, MSCO maintains backup systems and backup data, leverages cloud-based technology, and has a full-time offsite disaster recovery site to ensure business continuity during a potential wide-spread disruption. However, despite the preventive and protective measures in place, in the event of a wide-spread disruption, MSCO’s ability to satisfy the obligations to customers and other securities firms may be significantly hampered or completely disrupted. For more information regarding our business continuity plan, refer to the Business Continuity Statement on our website.
We are consistently enhancing technology for both our customers as well as our internal operations. We are currently in the process of enhancing our retail trading platform to provide a seamless user experience for our customers and streamline our operations.
Siebert AdvisorNXT, Inc.
SNXT offers customers our proprietary robo-advisory technology that utilizes trading algorithms initially developed by STCH to create our robo-advisor. This technology provides clients with cost-efficient, competitively priced, and automated wealth management solutions intended to maximize portfolio returns based on specific risk tolerance. The platform utilizes Nobel Prize-winning Modern Portfolio Theory (“MPT”) to create optimal portfolios for each client. We provide web-based tools to enable clients to monitor and interact with the robo-advisor’s automated portfolio manager application. The robo-advisor selects low-cost, well-managed, exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”) and exchange-traded notes (“ETNs”) that represent the asset classes that provide clients the necessary risk-adjusted exposure given current market conditions. The robo-advisor continuously monitors and periodically rebalances portfolios to address changes in market and economic conditions.
Products and Services
Separately managed accounts
Park Wilshire Companies, Inc.
PW is a full-service insurance agency founded in 2010. Through PW our product offerings include various insurance products such as fixed annuities and property and casualty insurance.
Products and Services
Property and casualty insurance
Natural disaster insurance
Life and disability
Siebert Technologies, LLC
STCH is a technology company initially tasked with developing a robo-advisor platform. Through STCH, we expanded our products and services by offering a robo-advisor through SXNT, and we plan to use this subsidiary for future fintech opportunities and products and services.
RISE Financial Services, LLC
During 2021 and 2022, RISE Prime Services, LLC was a prime broker focused on providing institutional quality services to hedge funds and other institutional investors.
Reorganization of RISE, Tigress, and Hedge Connection
In 2021 and 2022, Siebert and RISE engaged in certain transactions with Tigress Holdings, LLC (“Tigress”) and Hedge Connection, Inc. (“Hedge Connection”) to exchange equity, cash, and respective leadership positions. Based upon the strategic direction of these ventures, management of the respective businesses decided to unwind the original transactions with Siebert, RISE, Hedge Connection and Tigress. See Note 3 – Transactions with Tigress and Hedge Connection for further detail on these transactions.
Siebert management is assessing the future strategic direction of RISE, taking into consideration current market conditions, demand trends, and resources.
We encounter significant competition from full-commission, online and discount brokerage firms, including zero commission firms, as well as from financial institutions, mutual fund sponsors, venture-backed technology and cryptocurrency firms, and other organizations. Although there has been consolidation in the industry in both the online and traditional brokerage business during recent years, we believe that additional competitors such as banks, insurance companies, providers of online financial and information services, and others will continue to be attracted to the brokerage industry. We compete with a wide variety of vendors of financial services for the same customers; however, our success in the financial services industry is a result of our high-quality customer service, responsiveness, products offered, and excellent executions.
Cybersecurity presents significant challenges to the business community in general, as well as to the financial services industry. Increasingly, bad actors, both domestically and internationally, attempt to steal personal data and/or interrupt the normal functioning of businesses through accessing individuals’ and companies’ files and equipment connected to the internet. Recently, intruders have become increasingly sophisticated and use deceptive methods to steal funds and personally identifiable information which they either take for their own purposes, release to the internet, or hold for ransom. Regulators are increasingly requiring companies to provide more advanced levels of cybersecurity measures. We continue to maintain systems and ongoing planning measures to prevent any such attack from disrupting our services to clients as well as to prevent any loss of data concerning our clients, their financial affairs, and company-privileged information. We contract cybersecurity consultants as well as other vendors to oversee detection and defense from such attacks. Refer to Item 1A. – Risk Factors for more detail.
The securities industry in the U.S. is subject to extensive regulation under both federal and state laws. The SEC is the federal agency charged with administration of the federal securities laws. MSCO and RISE are registered as broker-dealers with the SEC. MSCO is a member of the NYSE and the FINRA. Much of the regulation of broker-dealers has been delegated to self-regulatory organizations (“SROs”), principally FINRA, which is MSCO’s and RISE’s primary regulator with respect to financial and operational compliance. These SROs adopt rules (subject to approval by the SEC) governing the industry and conduct periodic examinations of broker-dealers. Securities firms are also subject to regulation by state securities authorities in the states in which they do business. MSCO is registered as a broker-dealer in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and RISE is registered as a broker-dealer in 22 states and territories. These regulations affect our business operations and impose capital, client protection, and market conduct requirements.
Conduct and Training
The principal purpose of regulation and discipline of broker-dealers is the protection of customers and the securities markets. The regulations to which broker-dealers are subject cover all aspects of the securities business, including training of personnel, sales methods, trading practices among broker-dealers, uses and safekeeping of customers’ funds and securities, capital structure of securities firms, record keeping, fee arrangements, disclosure to clients, and the conduct of directors, officers and employees. Additional legislation, changes in rules promulgated by the SEC and by SROs or changes in the interpretation or enforcement of existing laws and rules may directly affect the method of operation and profitability of broker-dealers. The SEC, SROs and state securities authorities may conduct administrative proceedings which can result in censure, fine, cease and desist orders or suspension or expulsion of a broker-dealer, its officers or its employees.
Dodd-Frank Act of 2010
As a result of the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 (“Dodd-Frank”), the adoption of implementing regulations by the federal regulatory agencies, as well as other recent regulatory reforms, we have experienced significant changes in the laws and regulations that apply to us, how we are regulated, and regulatory expectations in the areas of compliance, risk management, corporate governance, operations, capital and liquidity.
Regulation Best Interest
Pursuant to the Dodd-Frank Act, the SEC was charged with considering whether broker-dealers should be subject to a standard of care similar to the fiduciary standard applicable to RIAs. In June 2019, the SEC adopted a package of rulemakings and interpretations related to the provision of advice by broker-dealers and investment advisers, including Regulation Best Interest and Form CRS. Among other things, Regulation Best Interest requires a broker-dealer to act in the best interest of a retail customer when making a recommendation to that customer of any securities transaction or investment strategy involving securities. Form CRS requires that broker-dealers and investment advisers provide retail investors with a brief summary document containing simple, easy-to-understand information about the nature of the relationship between the parties. Regulation Best Interest and Form CRS had a compliance date of June 30, 2020.
Regulation Best Interest Rules have impacted the conduct of our business, especially with respect to our business with our retail clients. The need for enhanced documentation for recommendations of securities transactions to broker-dealer retail clients as well as the increased supervision of sales practices and transactions increased the amount of record-keeping and training for our sales staff. The related new rules and procedures have and may continue to bring increased costs associated with compliance and enhanced technology.
We operate pursuant to Regulation Best Interest Rules and as such, we conducted thorough training of all our employees with respect to the requirements of Regulation Best Interest. Additionally, we created the Regulation Best Interest Rule’s required documents and completed each of the required mailings (both electronic and conventional) prior to the effective date. We believe that the changes made to our business processes resulted in compliance with these new requirements. As business continues to be conducted under the Regulation Best Interest Rules, it is likely that additional changes may be necessary.
As a registered broker-dealer and FINRA member organization, MSCO is required by federal law to belong to the SIPC which provides, in the event of the liquidation of a broker-dealer, protection for securities held in customer accounts held by the firm of up to $500,000 per customer, subject to a limitation of $250,000 on claims for cash balances. SIPC is principally funded through assessments on registered broker-dealers. MSCO purchased $50 million additional account protection above SIPC coverage. Equities, bonds, mutual funds and money market funds are included at net asset value for purposes of SIPC protection and the additional protection. Neither SIPC protection nor the additional protection insures against fluctuations in the market value of securities.
MSCO is also authorized by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“MSRB”) to affect transactions in municipal securities on behalf of its customers and has obtained certain additional registrations with the SEC and state regulatory agencies necessary to permit it to engage in certain other activities incidental to its brokerage business.
Margin lending activities are subject to limitations imposed by regulations of the Federal Reserve System and FINRA. In general, these regulations provide that, in the event of a significant decline in the value of securities collateralizing a margin account, we are required to obtain additional collateral from the borrower or liquidate securities positions. Margin lending arranged by MSCO through third parties is subject to the margin rules of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the NYSE. Under such rules, broker-dealers are limited in the amount they may lend in connection with certain purchases and short sales of securities and are also required to impose certain maintenance requirements on the amount of securities and cash held in margin accounts. In addition, those rules and rules of the Chicago Board Options Exchange govern the amount of margin customers must provide and maintain in writing uncovered options.
Investment Advisers Act of 1940
SNXT is registered with the SEC as an investment adviser pursuant to the Advisers Act. The Advisers Act, together with the SEC’s regulations and interpretations thereunder, is a highly prescriptive regulatory statute. The SEC is authorized to institute proceedings and impose sanctions for violations of the Advisers Act, ranging from fines and censures to termination of an adviser’s registration and, in the case of willful violations, can refer a matter to the Unites States Department of Justice for criminal prosecution.
Under the Advisers Act, an investment adviser (whether or not registered under the Advisers Act) owes fiduciary duties to its clients. These duties impose standards, requirements and limitations on, among other things, trading for proprietary, personal and client accounts; allocations of investment opportunities among clients; use of “soft dollar arrangements,” a practice that involves using client brokerage commissions to purchase research or other services that help managers make investment decisions; execution of transactions; and recommendations to clients.
As an RIA, SNXT is subject to additional requirements that cover, among other things, disclosure of information about its business to clients; maintenance of written policies and procedures; maintenance of extensive books and records; restrictions on the types of fees SNXT may charge; custody of client assets; client privacy; advertising; and solicitation of clients. The SEC has legal authority to inspect any investment adviser and typically inspects a RIA periodically to determine whether the adviser is conducting its activities in compliance with (i) applicable laws and regulations, (ii) disclosures made to clients and (iii) adequate systems, policies and procedures reasonably designed to prevent and detect violations.
Section 28(e) of the Exchange Act provides a “safe harbor” to investment managers who use commission dollars generated by their advised accounts to obtain investment research and brokerage services that provide lawful and appropriate assistance to the manager in the performance of investment decision-making responsibilities. SNXT, as a matter of policy, does not use “soft dollars” and as such, it has no incentive to select or recommend a broker or dealer based on any interest in receiving research or related services. Rather, as a fiduciary, SNXT selects brokers based on its clients’ interests in receiving best execution.
Bank Secrecy Act of 1970
We conduct financial services activities that are subject to the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”), as amended by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (“PATRIOT Act”), which require financial institutions to develop and implement programs reasonably designed to achieve compliance with these regulations. The BSA and PATRIOT Act include a variety of monitoring, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements (such as currency transaction reporting and suspicious activity reporting) as well as identity verification and client due diligence requirements, which are intended to detect, report and/or prevent money laundering, and the financing of terrorism. In addition, we are subject to U.S. sanctions programs administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
As registered broker-dealers, MSCO and RISE are subject to the requirements of the Exchange Act relating to broker-dealers such as minimum net capital requirements under the SEC Uniform Net Capital Rule (Rule 15c3-1) and segregation of fully paid client funds and securities under the SEC Customer Protection Rule (Rule 15c3-3), administered by the SEC and FINRA.
Net capital rules are designed to protect clients, counterparties and creditors by requiring a broker-dealer to have sufficient liquid resources available to satisfy its financial obligations. Net capital is a measure of a broker-dealer’s readily available liquid assets, reduced by its total liabilities other than approved subordinated debt. Under the SEC Uniform Net Capital Rule, a broker-dealer may not repay any subordinated borrowings, pay cash dividends or make any unsecured advances or loans to its parent company or employees if such payment would result in a net capital amount below required levels. Failure to maintain the required regulatory net capital may subject a firm to suspension or expulsion by the NYSE or FINRA, as well as certain punitive actions by the SEC and other regulatory bodies, which ultimately could require a firm’s liquidation.
As explained in SEC guidelines and FINRA rules, brokers are required to seek the “best execution” reasonably available for their clients’ orders. In part, this requires brokers to use reasonable diligence so that the price to the client is as favorable as possible under prevailing market conditions. MSCO and RISE send client orders to a number of market centers, including market makers and exchanges, which encourages competition and ensures redundancy. For non-directed client orders, it is our policy to route orders to market centers based on a number of factors that are more fully discussed in the Supplemental Materials of FINRA Rule 5310, including, where applicable, but not necessarily limited to, speed of execution, price improvement opportunities, differences in price dis-improvement, likelihood of executions, the marketability of the order, size guarantees, service levels and support, the reliability of order handling systems, client needs and expectations, transaction costs, and whether the firm will receive remuneration for routing order flow to such market centers. Price improvement is available under certain market conditions and for certain order types and we regularly monitor executions to ensure best execution standards are met.
Consumer Financial Information Privacy
In providing services to clients, we manage, utilize and store sensitive and confidential client data, including personal data. As a result, we are subject to numerous laws and regulations designed to protect this information, such as U.S. federal and state laws governing the protection of personally identifiable information. These laws and regulations are increasing in complexity and number, change frequently and sometimes conflict. To the extent they are applicable to us, we must comply with federal and state information-related laws and regulations in the United States, including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999, SEC Regulation S-P, the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, as amended, and Regulation S-ID, as well as the California Consumer Protection Act and further potential federal and state requirements.
Our success depends on our ability to attract, hire, retain and develop highly skilled professionals in a variety of specialties, including finance, technology, compliance, business development, cybersecurity and management. Due to the complexity of our business, we compete for talent with other companies, both inside and outside of our industry, and in multiple geographical areas in the U.S.
Our human capital efforts focus on establishing a culture of service that emphasizes taking care of our employees, so they can take care of our clients. To that end, we seek employees who are approachable, proactive, collaborative, agile and innovative, and who share our commitment to excellence, integrity, and service. As of March 20, 2023, we had 117 employees, one of whom was a corporate officer. None of our employees are represented by a union, and we believe that relations with our employees are good.
To maintain a high-caliber, values-driven workforce that is committed to our culture, we strive to offer total rewards, including compensation and benefits that position our company as an employer of choice. We design our compensation to be competitive in the markets in which we compete, and closely monitor industry trends and practices to ensure we are able to attract and retain the personnel who are critical to our success. To support our employees’ health and well-being, we offer competitive medical, dental and vision plans as well as other health benefits.
We believe in our employees’ potential and provide training and development opportunities intended to maximize their performance and professional growth. We require all of our employees to complete courses in key regulatory areas, such as insider trading and anti-money laundering compliance.
We aim to provide a safe, inclusive environment for our employees, where they feel engaged in our business, supported in who they are and empowered to succeed. We are committed to providing a workplace that is free from violence, harassment and other unsafe or disruptive conditions, and require our personnel to attend regular training sessions and workshops on those topics.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
Legislation has and may continue to result in changes to rules and regulations applicable to our business, which may negatively impact our business and financial results.
New laws, rules, regulations and guidance, or changes in the interpretation and enforcement of existing federal, state, foreign and SRO laws, rules, regulations and guidance may directly affect our business and the profitability of Siebert or the operation of specific business lines. In addition, new and changing laws, rules, regulation and guidance could result in limitations on the lines of business we conduct, modifications to our business practices, more stringent capital and liquidity requirements or other costs and could limit our ability to return capital to stockholders.
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the "Dodd-Frank Act"), enacted in 2010, required many federal agencies to adopt new rules and regulations applicable to the financial services industry and called for many studies regarding various industry practices. In particular, the Dodd-Frank Act gave the SEC discretion to adopt rules regarding standards of conduct for broker-dealers providing investment advice to retail customers.
The rules and interpretations adopted by the SEC in June 2019 include Regulation Best Interest and the new Form CRS Relationship Summary, which are intended to enhance the quality and transparency of retail investors' relationships with broker-dealers and investment advisers. Regulation Best Interest enhances the broker-dealer standard of conduct beyond existing suitability obligations, requiring compliance with disclosure, care, conflict of interest and compliance obligations. The regulation requires that a broker-dealer or natural person who is an associated person of the broker-dealer shall act in the best interest of the retail customer at the time it makes a recommendation of any securities transaction or investment strategy involving securities, prioritizing the interests of the customer above any interests of the broker-dealer or its associated persons. Among other things, this requires the broker-dealer to mitigate conflicts of interest arising from financial incentives in selling securities products.
The new rules and processes related thereto have and will most likely continue to involve increased costs, including, but not limited to, compliance costs associated with new or enhanced technology. In addition to the foregoing laws affecting regulation of our industry, Congress is considering various proposals to increase taxation relating to investments, which may adversely impact the volume of trading and other transactions from which we derive our revenue.
It is not possible to determine the extent of the impact of any new laws, regulations or initiatives that may be imposed, or whether any existing proposals will become law. Conformance with any new laws or regulations could make compliance more difficult and expensive and affect the manner in which we conduct business.
We are subject to extensive government regulation and to third party litigation risk and regulatory risk which could result in significant liabilities and reputational harm which, in turn, could materially adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Our business is subject to extensive regulation in the U.S., at both the federal and state level. We are also subject to regulation by SROs and other regulatory bodies in the U.S., such as the SEC, the NYSE, FINRA, MSRB, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and the NFA. MSCO is registered as a broker-dealer in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and RISE is registered as a broker-dealer in 22 states and territories. The regulations to which MSCO and RISE are subject as broker-dealers cover all aspects of the securities business including training of personnel, sales methods, trading practices, uses and safe keeping of customers’ funds and securities, capital structure, record keeping, fee arrangements, disclosure and the conduct of directors, officers and employees.
SNXT is registered as an investment adviser with the SEC under the Advisers Act, and its business is highly regulated. The Advisers Act imposes numerous obligations on RIAs, including fiduciary, record keeping, operational and disclosure obligations. Moreover, the Advisers Act grants broad administrative powers to regulatory agencies such as the SEC to regulate investment advisory businesses. If the SEC or other government agencies believe that SNXT has failed to comply with applicable laws or regulations, these agencies have the power to impose fines, suspensions of a registrant and individual employees or other sanctions, which could include revocation of SNXT’s registration under the Advisers Act. SNXT is also subject to the provisions and regulations of ERISA, to the extent that SNXT acts as a “fiduciary” under ERISA with respect to certain of its clients. ERISA and the applicable provisions of the federal tax laws impose a number of duties on persons who are fiduciaries under ERISA and prohibit certain transactions involving the assets of each ERISA plan which is a client, as well as certain transactions by the fiduciaries (and certain other related parties) to such plans. Our subsidiaries, RISE and MSCO, are also regulated by the National Futures Association (“NFA”) and function as a registered introducing broker.
The laws, rules and regulations, as well as governmental policies and accounting principles, governing our business and the financial services and banking industries generally have changed significantly over recent years and are expected to continue to do so. We cannot predict which changes in laws, rules, regulations, governmental policies or accounting principles will be adopted. Any changes in the laws, rules, regulations, governmental policies or accounting principles relating to our business could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
Additionally, like other participants in the financial services industry, we and our subsidiaries face the risks of lawsuits by clients and risks of regulatory proceeding against us. The outcome of regulatory proceedings and client lawsuits is uncertain and difficult to predict. An adverse resolution of any regulatory proceeding or client lawsuit against us could result in substantial costs or reputational harm to us. Further, adverse proceedings could have an adverse effect on our ability to retain key registered representatives, investment advisers and wealth managers, and to retain existing clients or attract new clients, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. Refer to Item 3 – Legal Proceedings for additional detail.
We are subject to net capital requirements.
The SEC, FINRA, and various other securities and commodities exchanges and other regulatory bodies in the U.S. have rules with respect to net capital requirements which affect us. These rules have the effect of requiring that at least a substantial portion of a broker-dealer’s assets be kept in cash or highly liquid investments. Our compliance with the net capital requirements could limit operations that require intensive use of capital, such as underwriting or trading activities. These rules could also restrict our ability to withdraw our capital, even in circumstances where we have more than the minimum amount of required capital, which, in turn, could limit our ability to implement growth strategies. In addition, a change in such rules, or the imposition of new rules, affecting the scope, coverage, calculation or amount of such net capital requirements, or a significant operating loss or any unusually large charge against net capital, could have similar adverse effects.
Risks Related to Our Technology and Information Systems
We rely on information processing and communications systems to process and record our transactions.
Our operations rely heavily on information processing and communications systems. Our system for processing securities transactions is highly automated. Failure of our information processing or communications systems for a significant period of time could limit our ability to process a large volume of transactions accurately and rapidly. This could cause us to be unable to satisfy our obligations to customers and other securities firms and could result in regulatory violations. External events, such as an earthquake, terrorist attack or power failure, loss of external information feeds, such as security price information, as well as internal malfunctions such as those that could occur during the implementation of system modifications, could render part or all of these systems inoperative.
We rely on third-party platforms for information and communications systems.
We rely heavily on our data technology platforms and the platforms provided by our clearing agents. These platforms offer interfaces to our clearing service providers’ computing systems where customer account records are kept and are accessible through our data technology platforms. Our systems also utilize browser-based access and other types of data communications.
Our data technology platforms offer services used in direct relation to customer activities as well as support for corporate use. Some of these services include email and messaging, market data systems and third-party trading systems, business productivity tools and customer relationship management systems. Our data network is designed with redundancies in case a significant business disruption occurs.
We also rely on third parties that provide data center facilities, infrastructure, back-office systems for clearance, settlement and accounting, customer relationship management, compliance and risk software and systems, website functionality and access, databases, data center facilities and cloud computing, all of which are critical to our operations. To ensure reliability and to conform to regulatory requirements related to business continuity, we maintain backup systems and backup data, leverage cloud-based technology, and have a full-time offsite disaster recovery site to ensure business continuity during a potential wide-spread disruption. However, despite the preventive and protective measures in place, in the event of a wide-spread disruption of our systems or those of the third-parties upon whom we rely, our ability to satisfy the obligations to customers and other securities firms may be significantly hampered or completely disrupted.
Failure to protect client data or prevent breaches of our information systems could expose us to liability or reputational damage.
We are dependent on information technology networks and systems to securely process, transmit and store electronic information and to communicate among our branch offices and with our clients and vendors. As the breadth and complexity of this infrastructure continues to grow, the potential risk of security breaches and cyber-attacks increases. As a financial services company, we are continuously subject to cyber-attacks by third parties. Any such security breach could lead to shutdowns or disruptions of our systems and potential unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. In addition, vulnerabilities of our external service providers and other third parties could pose security risks to client information. The secure transmission of confidential information over public networks is also a critical element of our operations.
In providing services to clients, we manage, utilize and store sensitive and confidential client data, including personal data. As a result, we are subject to numerous laws and regulations designed to protect this information, such as U.S. federal and state laws governing the protection of personally identifiable information. These laws and regulations are increasing in complexity and number, change frequently and sometimes conflict. If any person, including any of our employees, negligently disregards or intentionally breaches our established controls with respect to client data, or otherwise mismanages or misappropriates that data, we could be subject to significant monetary damages, regulatory enforcement actions, fines and/or criminal prosecution in one or more jurisdictions. Unauthorized disclosure of sensitive or confidential client data, whether through systems failure, employee negligence, fraud or misappropriation, could damage our reputation and cause us to lose clients. Similarly, unauthorized access to or through our information systems, whether by our employees or third parties, including a cyber-attack by third parties who may deploy viruses, worms or other malicious software programs, could result in negative publicity, significant remediation costs, legal liability, and damage to our reputation and could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations. In addition, our liability insurance might not be sufficient in type or amount to cover us against claims related to security breaches, cyber-attacks and other related breaches.
We may be exposed to damage to our business or our reputation by cybersecurity breaches.
As the world becomes more interconnected through the use of the internet and users rely more extensively on the internet and the cloud for the transmission and storage of data, such information becomes more susceptible to incursion by hackers and other parties intent on stealing or destroying data on which we or our customers rely. We face an evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats in which hackers use a complex array of means to perpetrate cyber-attacks, including the use of stolen access credentials, malware, ransomware, phishing, structured query language injection attacks, and distributed denial-of-service attacks, among other means. These cybersecurity incidents have increased in number and severity and it is expected that these trends will continue. Should we be affected by such an incident, we may incur substantial costs and suffer other negative consequences, which may include:
Remediation costs, such as liability for stolen assets or information, repairs of system damage, and incentives to customers or business partners in an effort to maintain relationships after an attack;
Increased cybersecurity protection costs, which may include the costs of making organizational changes, deploying additional personnel and protection technologies, training employees, and engaging third party experts and consultants;
Lost revenues resulting from the unauthorized use of proprietary information or the failure to retain or attract customers following an attack;
Litigation and legal risks, including regulatory actions by state and federal regulators; and
Loss of reputation.
Increasingly, intruders attempt to steal significant amounts of data, including personally identifiable data and either hold such data for ransom or release it onto the internet, exposing our clients to financial or other harm and thereby significantly increasing our liability in such cases. Our regulators have introduced programs to review our protections against such incidents which, if they determined that our systems do not reasonably protect our clients’ assets and their data, could result in enforcement activity and sanctions.
We have and continue to introduce systems and software to prevent any such incidents and review and increase our defenses to such issues through the use of various services, programs and outside vendors. We contract cybersecurity consultants and also review and revise our cybersecurity policy to ensure that it remains up to date. In the event that we experience a material cybersecurity incident or identify a material cybersecurity threat, we will make all reasonable efforts to properly disclose it in a timely fashion. It is impossible, however, for us to know when or if such incidents may arise or the business impact of any such incident.
As a result of such risks, we have and are likely to incur significant costs in preparing our infrastructure and maintaining it to resist any such attacks.
An increase in volume on our systems or other events could cause them to malfunction.
Most of our trade orders are received and processed electronically. This method of trading is heavily dependent on the integrity of the electronic systems supporting it. While we have never experienced a significant failure of our trading systems, heavy stress placed on our systems during peak trading times could cause our systems to operate at unacceptably low speeds or fail altogether. Any significant degradation or failure of our systems or the systems of third parties involved in the trading process (e.g., online and internet service providers, record keeping and data processing functions performed by third parties, and third party software), even for a short time, could cause customers to suffer delays in trading. These delays could cause substantial losses for customers and could subject us to claims from these customers for losses. There can be no assurance that our network structure will operate appropriately in the event of a subsystem, component or software failure. In addition, we cannot assure that we will be able to prevent an extended systems failure in the event of a power or telecommunications failure, an earthquake, terrorist attack, fire or any act of God. Any systems failure that causes interruptions in our operations could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and operating results.
Rapid market or technological changes may render our technology obsolete or decrease the attractiveness of our products and services to our clients.
We must continue to enhance and improve our technology and electronic services. The electronic financial services industry is characterized by significant structural changes, increasingly complex systems and infrastructures, changes in clients’ needs and preferences, and new business models. If new industry standards and practices emerge and our competitors release new technology before us, our existing technology, systems and electronic trading services may become obsolete or our existing business may be harmed.
Our future success will depend on our ability to:
Enhance our existing products and services;
Develop and/or license new products and technologies that address the increasingly sophisticated and varied needs of our clients and prospective clients;
Continue to attract highly-skilled technology personnel; and
Respond to technological advances and emerging industry standards and practices on a cost-effective and timely basis.
Developing our electronic services, our implementation and utilization of our robo-advisor and other technology entails significant technical and business risks. We may use new technologies ineffectively or we may fail to adapt our electronic trading platform, information databases and network infrastructure to client requirements or emerging industry standards. If we face material delays in introducing new services, products and enhancements, our clients may forego the use of our products and use those of our competitors.
Further, the adoption of new internet, networking or telecommunications technologies may require us to devote substantial resources to modify and adapt our services. We cannot assure that we will be able to successfully implement new technologies or adapt our proprietary technology and transaction-processing systems to client requirements or emerging industry standards. We cannot assure that we will be able to respond in a timely manner to changing market conditions or client requirements.
Risks Related to Our Business Operations
Potential strategic acquisitions and other business growth could increase costs and regulatory and integration risks.
Acquisitions involve risks that could adversely affect our business. We may pursue acquisitions of businesses and technologies. Acquisitions and other transactions entail numerous risks, including:
Difficulties in the integration of acquired operations, services and products;
Failure to achieve expected synergies;
Diversion of management’s attention from other business concerns;
Assumption of unknown material liabilities of acquired companies;
Amortization of acquired intangible assets, which could reduce future reported earnings;
Potential loss of clients or key employees of acquired companies; and
Dilution to existing stockholders.
As part of our growth strategy, we regularly consider and from time to time engage in discussions and negotiations regarding transactions such as acquisitions, mergers, combinations and partnerships within our industry. The purchase price for possible acquisitions could be paid in cash, through the issuance of our common stock or other securities, borrowings or a combination of these methods.
Our transactions are typically subject to closing conditions including regulatory approvals and the absence of material adverse changes in the business, operations or financial condition of the entity or part of an entity being acquired or sold. To the extent we enter into an agreement to buy or sell an entity or part of an entity, there can be no guarantee that the transaction will close when expected or at all. If a material transaction does not close our stock price could decline.
We cannot be certain that we will be able to identify, consummate and successfully integrate acquisitions, and no assurance can be given with respect to the timing, likelihood or business effect of any possible transaction. For example, we could begin negotiations that we subsequently decide to suspend or terminate for a variety of reasons. However, opportunities may arise that we will evaluate and any transactions that we consummate would involve risks and uncertainties to us. These risks could cause the failure of any anticipated benefits of an acquisition to be realized, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.
In addition, management is assessing the future strategic direction of RISE, taking into consideration current market conditions, demand trends, and resources. While we believe our expertise and industry relationships will enable us to execute a new strategic direction, our business plan for RISE is untested, and it is uncertain whether our efforts will attract the customers and revenue necessary to compete in the market.
We may be unable to realize the anticipated benefits of our cost cutting efforts or it may take longer than anticipated for us to realize any benefits from increased cost efficiencies or economies of scale, if at all.
Our realization of the benefits anticipated as a result of cost cutting efforts and other business efforts and changes will depend in part on the ability of our management team to implement our business plan. We cannot assure shareholders that there will not be substantial costs associated with these activities or other negative consequences as a result of these changes. These effects include, but are not limited to, incurring unexpected costs or delays in connection with implementation of a modified business model, or the failure of our business to perform as expected, which could harm our results of operations.
We depend on our ability to attract and retain key personnel.
We are dependent upon our key personnel for our success and the loss of the services of any of these individuals could significantly harm our business, financial condition and operating results.
Our customers may fail to pay us.
A principal credit risk to which we are exposed on a regular basis is that our customers may fail to pay for their purchases or fail to maintain the minimum required collateral for amounts borrowed against securities positions maintained by them. We cannot assure that our practices and/or the policies and procedures we have established will be adequate to prevent a significant credit loss.
Our advisory services subject us to additional risks.
We provide investment advisory services to investors. Through our RIA, SNXT, we offer robo-advisory and investment services. The risks associated with these investment advisory activities include those arising from possible conflicts of interest, unsuitable investment recommendations, inadequate due diligence, inadequate disclosure and fraud. Realization of these risks could lead to liability for client losses, regulatory fines, civil penalties and harm to our reputation and business.
Certain employees, directors and affiliates of RISE and Siebert own equity in RISE Financial Services, LLC
From January 31, 2022 to the date of this Report, RISE issued and Siebert sold membership interests in RISE to certain employees, directors, and affiliates of RISE and Siebert ranging from 1% to 2% individually. This amount represented, as of the date of this Report, an aggregate of 7% of the total issued and outstanding membership interests in RISE. As of the date of this Report, Gloria E. Gebbia owns approximately 25% of RISE. As a result, the interests of the employees, directors, and affiliates of RISE and Siebert who own equity in RISE may differ from the interests of shareholders of Siebert.
Risks Related to Our Common Stock
There may be a limited public market for our common stock; Volatility.
13,198,585 shares of our common stock, or approximately 41% of our shares of our common stock outstanding, are currently held by non-affiliates as of March 20, 2023. A stock with a small number of shares held by non-affiliates, known as the “float,” will generally be more volatile than a stock with a large float. Although our common stock is traded on the Nasdaq Capital Market, there can be no assurance that an active public market will continue.
Our principal shareholder has the ability to control key decisions submitted to a vote of our shareholders.
Gloria E. Gebbia, who is a director of Siebert and the managing member of Kennedy Cabot Acquisition, LLC (“KCA”), has, along with other family members, the power to elect the entire Board of Directors and, except as otherwise provided by law or our Certificate of Incorporation or by-laws, to approve any action requiring shareholder approval without a shareholders meeting.
Future sales of our common stock in the public market could cause the market price of our common stock to drop significantly, even if our business is doing well.
Sales of a substantial number of shares of our common stock in the public market, or the perception in the market that the holders of a large number of shares intend to sell shares, could reduce the market price of our common stock and make it more difficult for investors to sell common stock at a time and price that investors deem appropriate.
In addition, on February 18, 2022, we filed a shelf registration statement on Form S-3 that was declared effective on March 2, 2022 by the SEC for the potential offering, issuance and sale by us of up to $100.0 million, subject to certain limitations, of our common stock, preferred stock, warrants to purchase our common Stock and/or preferred stock, units consisting of all or some of these securities and subscription rights to purchase all or some of these securities. If we sell our common stock, preferred stock, convertible securities and other equity securities in other transactions pursuant to our shelf registration statement on Form S-3, existing investors may be materially diluted by such subsequent sales, new investors could gain rights superior to our existing shareholders and the market price of our common stock may drop significantly.
The price of our common stock in the public markets has experienced, and may in the future experience, extreme volatility due to a variety of factors, many of which are beyond our control.
Since our common stock started trading on the Nasdaq Capital Market, our common stock has been relatively thinly traded and at times been subject to price volatility. The average daily trading volume from January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022 was approximately 25,010 shares.
We believe that the trading price of our common stock has at times been influenced by trading factors other than industry or Company-specific fundamentals, including, without limitation, the sentiment of retail investors (including as may be expressed on financial trading and other social media sites), speculation in the press, in the investment community, or on the internet, including on online forums and social media, about Siebert, our industry or our security’s access to margin debt, trading in options and other derivatives on our common stock, and the amount and status of short interest in our securities (including a “short squeeze”). A “short squeeze” is a technical market condition that occurs when the price of a stock increases substantially, forcing market participants who had taken a position that its price would fall (i.e., who had sold the stock “short”), to buy it, which in turn may create significant, short-term demand for the stock not for fundamental reasons, but rather due to the need for such market participants to acquire the stock in order to forestall the risk of even greater losses. A “short squeeze” condition in the market for a stock can lead to short-term conditions involving very high volatility and trading that may or may not track fundamental valuation models.
As a result of the foregoing, investors in our common stock may be subject to the risk of significant, short-term price volatility of our common stock and the trading price of our common stock could decline for reasons unrelated to our business, financial condition, or results of operations. Further, in the past, following periods of volatility in the overall market and the market price of a particular company’s securities, securities class action litigation has often been instituted against these companies. If any of the foregoing occurs, it could cause our stock price to fall and may expose us to lawsuits that, even if unsuccessful, could be costly to defend and a distraction to management.
Our future ability to pay dividends to holders of our common stock is subject to the discretion of our Board of Directors and will be limited by our ability to generate sufficient earnings and cash flows.
Payment of future cash dividends on our common stock will depend on our ability to generate earnings and cash flows. However, sufficient cash may not be available to pay such dividends. Payment of future dividends, if any, will be at the discretion of our Board of Directors and will depend upon a number of factors that the Board of Directors deems relevant, including future earnings, the success of our business activities, capital requirements, the general financial condition and future prospects of our business and general business conditions. If we are unable to generate sufficient earnings and cash flows from our business, we may not be able to pay dividends on our common stock.
Our ability to pay cash dividends on our common stock is also dependent on the ability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends or capital distributions to Siebert. MSCO and RISE are subject to various regulatory requirements relating to liquidity, capital standards and the use of client funds and securities, which may limit funds available for payments to Siebert. The ability of our subsidiaries to pay dividends or capital distributions to Siebert may also be subject to regulatory approval.
Risks Related to Our Industry and Market
Securities market volatility and other securities industry risk could adversely affect our business.
Most of our revenues are derived from our securities brokerage business. Like other businesses operating in the securities industry, our business is directly affected by volatile trading markets, fluctuations in the volume of market activity, economic and political conditions, upward and downward trends in business and finance at large, legislation and regulation affecting the national and international business and financial communities, currency values, inflation, market conditions, the availability and cost of short-term or long-term funding and capital, the credit capacity or perceived credit-worthiness of the securities industry in the marketplace and the level and volatility of interest rates. We also face risks relating to losses resulting from the ownership of securities, counterparty failure to meet commitments, customer fraud, employee fraud, issuer fraud, errors and misconduct, failures in connection with the processing of securities transactions and litigation. A reduction in our revenues or a loss resulting from our ownership of securities or sales or trading of securities could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition. In addition, as a result of these risks, our revenues and operating results may be subject to significant fluctuations from quarter to quarter and from year to year.
Interest rate changes could affect our profitability.
The direction and level of interest rates are important factors in our earnings. Our earnings are affected by the difference between the interest rates earned on interest-earning assets such as loans and investment securities and interest rates paid on interest-bearing liabilities such as deposits and borrowings. Increases in interest rates positively impact our revenue from margin and other interest income, and distribution fees received from money market securities.
As the U.S. economy recovers, aided by stimulus packages and fiscal and monetary policies, inflation has been rising at historically high rates, and the Federal Reserve has signaled that it will continue increasing the target federal funds effective rate. Although we believe we may benefit from a rising interest rate environment, a rise in interest rates may cause our funding costs to increase if market conditions or the competitive environment induces us to raise our interest rates to avoid losing deposits, or replace deposits with higher cost funding sources without offsetting increases in yields on interest-earning assets which can reduce our interest revenue.
A prolonged economic slowdown, volatility in the markets, a recession, and uncertainty in the markets could impair our business and harm our operating results.
Our businesses are, and will continue to be, susceptible to economic slowdowns, recessions and volatility in the markets, which may lead to financial losses for our customers, and a decrease in revenues and operating results. In addition, global macroeconomic conditions and U.S. financial markets remain vulnerable to the potential risks posed by exogenous shocks, which could include, among other things, political and financial uncertainty in the U.S. and the European Union, renewed concern about China’s economy, conflict with Russia and Ukraine, complications involving terrorism and armed conflicts around the world, or other challenges to global trade or travel, such as might occur in the event of a wider pandemic involving COVID-19. More generally, because our business is closely correlated to the macroeconomic outlook, a significant deterioration in that outlook or an exogenous shock would likely have an immediate negative impact on our overall results of operations.
There is intense competition in the brokerage industry.
We encounter significant competition from full-commission, no commission, online and other discount brokerage firms, as well as from financial institutions, mutual fund sponsors, venture-backed technology and cryptocurrency firms, and other organizations. Over the past several years, price wars and lower or no commission rates in the discount brokerage business in general have strengthened our competitors. In addition, while the decline of commissions has been ongoing for decades, some of our competitors charging zero commissions on trades could potentially have an adverse effect on our commission revenue.
The securities brokerage industry has experienced significant consolidation, which may continue in the future, likely increasing competitive pressures in the industry. Consolidation could enable other firms to offer a broader range of products and services than we do, or offer them on better terms, such as higher interest rates paid on cash held in client accounts. We believe that such changes in the industry will continue to strengthen existing competitors and attract additional competitors such as banks, insurance companies, providers of online financial and information services, and others. Many of these competitors are larger, more diversified, have greater capital resources, and offer a wider range of services and financial products than we do. We compete with a wide variety of vendors of financial services for the same customers. Many of these competitors conduct extensive marketing campaigns and may have or achieve exceptional market name recognition. We may not be able to compete effectively with current or future competitors with stronger capital position, greater name recognition or who partner or combine with other larger firms.
Some competitors in the discount brokerage business offer services which we may not offer. In addition, some competitors have continued to offer flat rate execution fees that are lower than some of our published rates. Industry-wide changes in trading practices are expected to cause continuing pressure on fees earned by discount brokers for the sale of order flow. Continued or increased competition from ultra-low cost, flat-fee brokers and broader service offerings from other discount brokers could limit our growth or lead to a decline in our customer base which would adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition. Further, if we are not able to update or adapt our products and services to take advantage of the latest technologies and standards, or are otherwise unable to offer services to mobile and desktop computing platforms to a growing self-directed investor market, it could have a material adverse effect on our ability to compete.
Lower price levels in the securities markets may reduce our profitability.
Lower price levels of securities may result in (i) reduced volumes of securities, options and futures transactions, with a consequent reduction in our commission revenues, and (ii) losses from declines in the market value of securities we hold in investment. In periods of low volume, our levels of profitability are further adversely affected because certain of our expenses remain relatively fixed. Sudden sharp declines in market values of securities and the failure of issuers and counterparties to perform their obligations can result in illiquid markets which, in turn, may result in us having difficulty selling securities. Such negative market conditions, if prolonged, may lower our revenues. A reduction in our revenues could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.