When FINMA receives information that gives it clear grounds to suspect unauthorised activity, it begins informal investigations to clarify the facts and decide whether enforcement proceedings are needed.
FINMA’s main instrument for clarifying the facts is the duty to provide information under Article 29 FINMASA. According to the Federal Supreme Court, this applies equally to authorised providers and those whose need for authorisation has not yet been proven. Providers that may be operating without the requisite authorisation must thus respond fully and truthfully to FINMA’s requests for information.
If they do not, and thus prevent FINMA from establishing the facts, FINMA first warns the company before publishing its details in the warning list.
Another key instrument for gathering information is national and international cooperation. If criminal proceedings against the provider or the individuals responsible in Switzerland are under way at the same time, FINMA coordinates its investigations with the responsible prosecution authorities as far as possible.
What happens next can vary considerably from case to case. If it appears that the provider and its business model are legitimate, investors’ money is not in danger and the provider is cooperative, the best course of action may be to order the provider to restore compliance with the law by taking its own measures, for instance amending its business model or its advertising, or applying to FINMA for authorisation.
In serious cases of unauthorised activity that pose a continuing risk to investors, FINMA opens enforcement proceedings. If FINMA’s investigations or enforcement proceedings give reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity, it additionally files a criminal complaint with the responsible prosecution authority.