When it comes to policing the way brokerages and advisors market themselves, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has turned into RoboCop.

Last year, in two high profile cases, the private regulator slapped huge fines against a small New York brokerage firm, David Lerner Associates, and an industry giant, Fidelity, stemming in part from allegations of improper marketing materials. This came after a record year for advertising-related FINRA fines in 2011 of $21.1 million, which had more than quadrupled in value from 2010, according to an annual FINRA sanctions survey published by the Atlanta law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.

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