What is the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC)?
The stated mission of the SIPC is as follows: SIPC was created under the Securities Investor Protection Act as a non-profit membership corporation. SIPC oversees the liquidation of member firms that close when the firm is bankrupt or in financial trouble, and customer assets are missing. In a liquidation under the Securities Investor Protection Act, SIPC and the court-appointed Trustee work to return customers’ securities and cash as quickly as possible. Within limits, SIPC expedites the return of missing customer property by protecting each customer up to $500,000 for securities and cash (including a $250,000 limit for cash only).
SIPC is an important part of the overall system of investor protection in the United States. While a number of federal and state securities agencies and self-regulatory organizations deal with cases of investment fraud, SIPC's focus is both different and narrow: restoring customer cash and securities left in the hands of bankrupt or otherwise financially troubled brokerage firms.
SIPC was not chartered by Congress to combat fraud. Although created under a federal law, SIPC is not an agency or establishment of the United States Government, and it has no authority to investigate or regulate its member broker-dealers. It is important to understand that SIPC is not the securities world equivalent of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which insures depositors of insured banks.
The Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) had its origins in the difficult years of 1968-70, when the paperwork crunch, brought on by unexpectedly high trading volume, was followed by a very severe decline in stock prices. Hundreds of broker-dealers were merged, acquired or simply went out of business. Some were unable to meet their obligations to customers and went bankrupt. Public confidence in the U.S. securities markets was in jeopardy.
Congress acted swiftly, passing the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970, 15 U.S.C. § 78aaa et seq. (SIPA). SIPA's purpose is to protect customers against certain types of loss resulting from broker-dealer failure and, thereby, to promote investor confidence in the nation’s securities markets.