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Finra eases rules on expensing meals amid pandemic

Schmoozing clients stuck in lockdown can be a thankless task, what with virtual meetings plagued by glitchy audio, childcare intrusions and the monotony of the ubiquitous bookcase in the background.

A U.S. watchdog has some good news.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc., which oversees Wall Street brokers, said it would allow bankers and traders to expense meals as entertainment costs even if they’re just hosting an online get-together.

Finra’s strict limits on gifts have always included an exemption for entertainment, which typically means restaurant excursions. So what happens in a video-only world?

“A key distinction between gifts and business entertainment is that the latter involves an associated person of a member personally hosting employees of institutional customers,” Finra said in a notice on its website this week. For virtual business-entertainment events or meetings, the authority said it would view food and beverage costs as exempt from its $100 gift limits.

Finra’s only request: The host shouldn’t set up a video call, order the meal and disappear. Fancy care packages to cheer up clients are still prohibited.

[More: Number of B-Ds, reps registered with Finra falls again]

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