databaseChecking a financial adviser’s past for errant behavior is much easier now with a new searchable database run by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, which oversees U.S. securities companies.

Its Internet database allows users to perform searches by the name of a broker or investment firm.

The search page is at: http://disciplinaryactions.finra.org .

Previously, details regarding disciplinary actions were only available by contacting FINRA, which would look up the information and later send summaries of documents.

The new online capabilities enable the complete documents to be viewed online, printed, or downloaded immediately.

“This will actually allow investors to search the database seven days a week and provide instant access to the actual underlying disciplinary action documents themselves,” said Emily Gordy, FINRA’s senior vice president for enforcement.

The database lists complaints, settlements and other documents associated with a disciplinary action.

The new search tool is linked to FINRA’s BrokerCheck service, which reviews industry registration and licensing documents for background reports on 1.3 million registered brokers and 17,000 brokerage firms.

Beginning June 15, FINRA’s monthly disciplinary actions database also will link to the new search tool, providing regular updates.

“Any time you can give consumers and potential investors the ability to feel more confident in their decisions to turn over their life savings to somebody, it’s a win,” said Robert Russell, president of Russell & Co., a Dayton, Ohio, financial planning firm.

FINRA is the largest non-governmental regulator for securities firms doing business in the United States.

Checking the FINRA database is a good first step to checking out an adviser, but a few other places also make sense.

The National Ethics Bureau, a membership organization of financial professionals, has a searchable database http://www.ethicscheck.com/consumers/advisorck.asp .

See the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has additional databases of advisers at http://www.sec.gov./investor/brokers.htm .

It’s also a good idea to check with state securities regulators or state insurance boards before you make your final decision.

Source: The Associated Press.