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Investment regulators from three countries gather in Salt Lake City

Published October 4, 2013 1:01 am

Conference • Meetings, with members from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, will focus on changes in laws affecting investors.
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Regulators who oversee investment opportunities are gathering in Salt Lake City this week with discussions on their agenda about changes in U.S. law that could affect how investors interact with the securities industry.

The North American Securities Administrators Association meets Saturday through Wednesday with participants from among state and provincial regulators from Canada and Mexico as well as the United States.

One of the big topics is a change in federal law that allows private investment opportunities to be advertised or promoted publicly. Currently, only investment opportunities of publicly traded shares can do that, a ban in place since the 1930s.

Under the law, the private investments still can only be sold to accredited investors, those with at least $1 million in assets or $200,000 a year in income, said Keith Woodwell, director of the Utah Division of Securities.

"Our fear is lots of people who are not accredited investors and who are not in a position to evaluate the merits of these offerings are going to be exposed to the offerings and they're going to want in," while some companies won't do enough to ensure they meet the guidelines, he said.

Also up for discussion is a law that allows federal regulators to prohibit investment firms from requiring their clients to settlement disputes through an industry arbitration panel, which state regulators believe skews the system in favor of the industry, said Woodwell.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to promulgate rules to put restrictions into effect.

"They have the authority to outlaw these mandatory arbitration agreements but have not chosen to do so," said Woodwell. "So there's been a push from state regulators to do that and obviously some push back from the industry not to do that."

Regulators also are watching a court case over whether Charles Schwab can require clients to waive their right to participate in class action lawsuits against it, he said.

About 500 members of the organization are expected to attend the conference and add more than $1 million to the economy.

The group held its first conference in Salt Lake City in 1922 and more recently was at the Snowbird resort in 1996.

tharvey@sltrib.com

Twitter: @TomHarveySltrib