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Complaints & Enforcement Overview

General Information

The Division of Securities investigates complaints relating to alleged violations of the state securities and franchise investment laws. Reporting problems quickly to the Division provides a better chance of determining whether there has been a violation of securities laws. It is often through inquiries and complaints from individuals that serious violations are detected.

The Division of Securities can:

  • Tell you if a securities offering is registered or has filed for an exemption.
  • Tell you whether a broker-dealer, securities agent, investment adviser, or investment adviser representative is registered to do business in Wisconsin.
  • Inform you about the disciplinary history, if any, of a broker-dealer, securities agent, investment adviser, or investment adviser representative.
  • Answer questions concerning your rights and responsibilities when dealing with a broker-dealer, securities agent, investment adviser, or investment adviser representative, or with an issuer of securities which has offered and sold securities directly to you.
  • Investigate problems with your brokerage account, questionable sales practices, telephone solicitations, investment adviser activity or allegations of fraud and misrepresentation.
  • Tell you whether a franchise registration or franchise disclosure document was filed.

To better understand the scope of the Division's authority, please review the following information.

What we can do:

The Division investigates possible violations of the Wisconsin Uniform Securities Law and the Wisconsin Franchise Investment Law (Chapters 551 & 553, Wis. Stats.). We investigate complaints involving persons and business entities alleged to have violated registration or anti-fraud provisions of these two laws. The Division has the authority to bring an administrative action (for example, issuing a cease and desist order requiring registration and prohibiting further violations, revoking registration exemptions, or suspending or revoking a person’s or firm’s securities registration). In appropriate cases, the Division may refer matters for criminal prosecution. If the Division is unable to assist you, we will try to determine whether another agency can help you.

What we cannot do:

The Division is authorized to investigate and take appropriate administrative enforcement action with respect to violations of law which fall within our jurisdiction. We generally cannot order that your money be refunded, cancel any agreement or contract, give legal advice, act as your attorney, or act as a court of law or collection agent. However, in some cases persons and firms we investigated have offered to rescind the transactions in question or otherwise resolve the matter with the complainants. We recommend that complainants consult a private attorney as to their possible remedies.

In addition, because our jurisdiction is limited to violations in connection with the offer and sale of securities and franchises, the Division has no authority or control over how a business conducts its internal business affairs. For example, we cannot require a company to provide you with financial statements, reports, or updates, or to hold a shareholder meeting. If you object to the way the business is being run, your remedies are found in the business entity laws of the state of organization, and a private attorney can advise you on whether to proceed with a private action. Also, we do not have jurisdiction over matters such as educational or business opportunities that do not meet the definition of a franchise or otherwise involve a security as defined by statute.

What you can do:

If you think you have been defrauded or deceived in connection with the purchase or sale of a security or a franchise investment opportunity, we want to know about it. If you believe your securities account with a broker-dealer or investment adviser has been mishandled or involves sales practice violations, we also want to know about it. The Division has the following sources of information that may help you if a dispute arises.