Implementing Compliance Practices for Social Media

I was in the audience for FINRA’s latest educational Program: Implementing Compliance Practices for Social Media.

This program addressed implementation of new guidance that FINRA recently issued in , concerning social media.

Introduction

Tom Pappas

FINRA does not endorse any particular practice and each firm will have to do things differently. The views in this webinar will not provide a safe harbor.

Summary of FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06, Guidance on Blogs and Social Networking Web Sites

Joseph Savage

addresses five different areas:

Recording-Keeping. You need to keep copies of the information you publish, regardless of the form. FINRA is aware that it’s not easy to capture this information when using third-party sites like Facebook. (Tough. Deal with it). You can file screenshots with FINRA.

Suitability responsibilities (Notice to Members 01-23). You are better off not recommending any specific investments.

Types of interactive electronic forums. Generally, postings will be considered advertisement, but interactive postings are a public appearance (so you do not need principal approval). They felt that Twitter posts and Facebook updates would be interactive electronic forums.

Supervision of social media sites (Regulatory Notice 07-59). This should be a risk-based review.

Third-party posts (“Adoption” and “Entanglement”). Generally, third party content is out of your control. But if you arrange for third party content or endorses it, then you may be deemed to have adopted that content and treat it as if you adopted it directly.

The notice is just guidance, not a rule. FINRA is looking at a new rule. See Regulatory Notice 09-55.

Firms’ Perspectives: Is Social Media Right for Your Firm?

Doug Preston & Joanne Rodgers

Doug pointed out the tremendous growth of social media. Regardless of the form and how it works, you need to use the sites in compliance with rules. (The rules are not going to adapt to social media.)

Joanne is doing a pilot with a vendor to help with compliance. They had lots of requests from recruiting and sales to use the tools.

If you use a social media site for personal purposes, can you still list that you work for the financial services company? You can have a “business card rule.” Just post the information on your business card, with no call to action or specific information.

Is this a growth area or just customer pressure? They have no data. Sales really want to use the tools to generate business. They view it more as a lead generation instead of a sales tool. Recruiting is an avid user of social media sites, especially LinkedIn.

Nobody has much data on the cost/benefit of using social media sites.

Firms’ Perspectives: Developing Social Media Pilot Programs

Doug Preston & Joanne Rodgers

Joanne has just finished a pilot for 25 agents and 25 recruiters. She saw that most of the agents participated in Facebook, more personal than business. The recruiters mostly used LinkedIn. (She did not want to disclose the vendor she used.)

Doug has not opened up the broker side to social media. The bank side does use it. They using some of that learning to build a system for the broker side.

One issue is the level of activity and the additional resources needed to review activity. The tools may be free, but they require people resources and time.

The key is the ability to obtain and retrieve the records and to move the records into your email surveillance program. It’s also important to be able to shut off some of the functionality on social media sites.

Firms’ Perspectives: Compliance Practices Concerning Social Media

Doug Preston & Joanne Rodgers

There are lots of risks. You need to draw a line between sites you control and those run by third parties. You can stuff on a blog you host that you can’t do on a third party blog platform.

You will need new processes and policies. You will need lots of training.

FINRA is ahead of the curve compared to some other regulators in the financial services industry. Insurance regulators have not addressed the use of social media.

One of the big risks is brand/reputation risk. Each of the registered representatives becomes a brand ambassador. If they say some thing bad or embarrassing it affects the company as well as themselves.

What is FINRA looking for? If you are using social media, they will want to see: written procedures, actual supervision, records and procedures.

They did not like LinkedIn recommendations. Registered representatives should not accept the recommendations.

The static versus interactive categories is the toughest one to deal with.

Third-Party Postings

Joseph Savage, Doug Preston, Joanne Rodgers, & Joseph Savage

Questions 8, 9 & 10 in address the issue of third party posts. You probably should put in a disclaimer if you let third party posts on your site. You should monitor them to make sure there is no inappropriate material (porn, copyright). You also need to monitor complaints.

A reg. rep. “favoriting” something or “liking” something could be considered adopting that third party statement.

Program Summary

The session should be available online in a few weeks.

FACULTY

Tom Pappas (Moderator) is Vice President and Director of FINRA’s Advertising Regulation Department. The department regulates the advertisements, sales literature and correspondence used by FINRA firms. His responsibilities include rule development, management of the filing and surveillance programs and related enforcement activities. He served in the same role at NASD before its 2007 consolidation with NYSE Member Regulation, which resulted in the formation of FINRA. He joined NASD in 1984 and was previously with Davenport & Company LLC. He received a bachelor’s degree from The University of Richmond and an M.B.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Douglas Preston is a Senior Vice President and Compliance Executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML), as well as Chief Compliance Officer for Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corporation, the firm’s prime brokerage arm. He is also responsible for a number of other compliance areas at the firm, including serving as the Chairman of the firm’s Enterprise Electronic Communications & Media Governance Committee, and leading BAML’s Global Banking & Markets Electronic Communications & Media Compliance team, among other responsibilities. Prior to BAML, Mr. Preston was Senior Special Counsel at NYSE Regulation. In his role at the NYSER, Mr. Preston helped develop and interpret various NYSE rules. He has worked on several major regulatory initiatives, including Regulation SHO, gifts and entertainment and electronic communications (NYSE 07-59), among others. Before joining NYSE, Mr. Preston was the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) for Santander Investment, SA’s New York investment bank. He was also the CCO of the investment banking arm of the Bank of Nova Scotia, and Associate General Counsel for the Securities Industry Association (now SIFMA). Prior to SIFMA, he worked in private practice, representing financial services entities. Mr. Preston received his J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. He is a member of the Bar of New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joanne Rodgers is a Vice President of Compliance at New York Life Insurance Company (NYL).  She is responsible for managing the sales material review unit, field review unit and market surveillance. Ms. Rodgers has worked at NYL in various roles of compliance for the past 15 years. Prior to joining NYL, she worked as an examiner at NASD. She is a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College with a B.A. in Business Administration.

Joseph P. Savage is a Vice President in FINRA’s Investment Companies Regulation Department. Mr. Savage specializes in a broad range of securities regulatory matters, including investment management, investment company, advertising and broker-dealer issues, and regularly appears at conferences regarding these issues. Prior to joining FINRA, he was an Associate Counsel with the Investment Company Institute and an attorney with the law firms of Morrison & Foerster LLP and Hunton & Williams. Mr. Savage also served as a judicial law clerk for United States District Judge John P. Vukasin of the Northern District of California. Mr. Savage holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia, a master’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, where he served as Note Editor of the Hastings Law Journal.

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3 Responses to Implementing Compliance Practices for Social Media

  1. Bill Winterberg March 17, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    Doug,

    Thank you very much for sharing your notes and the link to the webinar resources. It’s promising that the regulators are taking a serious approach to this emerging technology rather than sticking their heads in the sand.

  2. Adam March 17, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    Great wrap up, Doug! Very useful stuff here.

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