By Jeremy C. Owens
Nearly a dozen financial institutions agreed to pay more than $1.8 billion collectively for failing to properly collect employees’ text messages for their records, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced Tuesday.
Eight banks agreed to pay $125 million apiece regarding the SEC charges, joining JP Morgan Chase & Co. /zigman2/quotes/205971034/composite JPM -2.80% , which agreed to pay the same amount late last year, establishing a record at the time for fines related to record-keeping . Two other firms agreed to pay $50 million apiece, and one agreed to a $10 million penalty, adding up to more than $1.1 billion, the SEC disclosed.
“Today’s actions — both in terms of the firms involved and the size of the penalties ordered — underscore the importance of record-keeping requirements: they’re sacrosanct,” the director of the SEC’s enforcement division, Gurbir Grewal, said in a statement . “If there are allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct, we must be able to examine a firm’s books and records to determine what happened.”
In addition, the CFTC announced that the banks agreed to pay more than $700 million in penalties to that regulator. In a statement, CFTC Commissioner Kristin Johnson described the failures as “egregious and widespread,” similar to the SEC’s description of “widespread and longstanding failures by the firms and their employees to maintain and preserve electronic communications.”
“Increased reliance on simple, easy-to-access but unauthorized chat and text platforms will pose a significant challenge for many types of entities operating in our markets,” Johnson said in her statement . “Internal compliance programs must adopt internal controls consistent with this new landscape. Firms must inculcate a culture of compliance at all levels of their organization to mitigate the risks associated with using unauthorized chat and text platforms.”
The SEC said that the banks failed to collect communications from employees’ private devices and messaging apps that involved business matters from January 2018 to September 2021, across all levels of authority within their organizations. In addition to paying fines, the banks “have begun implementing improvements to their compliance policies and procedures to settle these matters,” the SEC stated.
The eight banks joining JP Morgan in paying $125 million to the SEC are Barclays PLC /zigman2/quotes/208409333/delayed UK:BARC -0.34% ; Bank of America Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200894270/composite BAC -4.46% , along with Merrill Lynch; Citigroup Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207741460/composite C -3.39% ; Credit Suisse Group AG /zigman2/quotes/205269278/delayed CH:CSGN +2.85% ; Deutsche Bank AG /zigman2/quotes/207242873/delayed XE:DBK +1.26% ; Goldman Sachs Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209237603/composite GS -2.38% ; Morgan Stanley /zigman2/quotes/209104354/composite MS -2.49% and UBS Group AG /zigman2/quotes/206172872/composite UBS +0.11% . Jefferies Financial Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206157580/composite JEF -4.35% and Nomura Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206251373/delayed JP:8604 -0.22% will pay $50 million, while Cantor Fitzgerald Inc. will pay $10 million.
They have all been charged with violating record-keeping provisions and failing to properly supervise, according to the SEC. The agency also disclosed that the investigation continues.
“Other broker dealers and asset managers who are subject to similar requirements under the federal securities laws would be well-served to self-report and self-remediate any deficiencies,” Grewal said in his statement.