Federal Internet Law & Policy
An Educational Project
Online Investing Dont be a FOOL; The Law is Not DIY
- Ecommerce
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- - Behavioral
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- E Signatures
- Fraud
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- Online Investing
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- Taxes
- Statistics

The Information Revolution has revolutionized information intermediary businesses. There are a host of services that function as information aggregators and manipulators. The Information intermediaries do not create the information and are not responsible for it. What they add is access to and analysis of the information, in order to get to the best or desired results. These information intermediaries include travel agents, stock brokers, lawyers, and others. The Information Revolution has dramatically altered these services as access to the information has more directly been put into the hands of individuals, bypassing intermediaries. Of course, the glee of the individuals who revels at bypassing the intermediary soon finds themselves overwhelmed with massive information and still in need of analysis and recommendation.

One of the most radically transformed industries was investing. Investment Advisors with their $100+ per trade fees were quickly replaced with online investing at $6 per trade, including full access to quotes, information, research, and advice. Common Joes took investing into their own hands and entered the market as Day Traders, adding new complexity to market analysis. With the Dot Com Boom came the zeal that every Common Joe could make money in the stock market (a theme likewise proselytized before the Stock Market collapse of 1930s and the Great Depression); with the Dot Com Bust came the disillusionment with "professional" investment advice which had become clearly tainted with insider interest. The end result is online investing as a standard feature from pure online investment service plays to established financial institutions.

Investing is big money and big opportunity for fraud and improper accounting of finances. The US Securities and Exchange Commission was created to oversee this industry in order to ensure that individual investors were protected and that the market would not be plunged into another collapse like that of the Great Depression.

The advent of online investing has required the SEC to revise its approach. In July 1998, the SEC formed the Office of Internet Enforcement (OIE). Much in the same way that the Department of Justice trains technology experts in different offices to act as the on scene experts, OIE's role in many ways can be described to be in-house experts. OIE acts as the experts reviewing potential risks and identifying areas for possible investigation and action, provides guidance and advice to SEC staff nationwide, and conducts training.

This is very much an area where the online word is not distinguished from the offline word. A swindle is a swindle whether it is valuable investment opportunity in a bridge in Brooklyn or a chatter online talking up a stock for the purpose of falsely inflating its price.

Office of Internet Enforcement

Securities Exchange Commission

SEC Online Complaint Form

"Seen a Potential Online Fraud? Tell Us About It!"

Commodities Futures Trading Commission


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