WASHINGTON - The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the nation's largest self-regulatory organization, which oversees almost 5,000 securities firms and 678,000 brokers, has offered voluntary early retirement to up to 300 of its staff in an attempt to shed about 10% of its roughly 3,000 employees.

But FINRA spokeswoman Nancy Condon said yesterday that the reduction in staff will "in no way impact our ability to fulfill our regulatory responsibility" and "reflects the tough economic times we all face."

The early retirement offers come amid the broad financial crisis, which is likely to result in a decline of the self-regulator's revenues, according to sources. FINRA's revenues are derived in part from regulatory, user, dispute resolution, transparency service, and contract service fees, as well as fines and activity assessments.

FINRA, which was formed from the merger of NASD and the New York Stock Exchange in July 2007, is responsible for rules that govern the equity and corporate debt markets as well as for examinations of broker-dealer firms, enforcement, arbitration, and mediation activities.

The self regulator enforces the rules written by the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board for broker-dealers in the municipal bond market. The early retirement offers were first reported yesterday by the New York Post.


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