The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has begun scrutinising how investment advisers use Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools.
In an alert on its Web site, ACA Compliance Group says the SEC has sent out a document request list to investment advisers as part of an "apparent sweep exam focused on social media and networking".
The alert - picked up by InvestmentNews - claims the watchdog is asking firms for details on levels of involvement with, or usage of, sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, LinkedFa, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Digg and Reddit.
It calls for documentation on communications - messages, tweets, blogs - made or received and details on advisers' policies and procedures relating to its - and third parties acting on its behalf - use of social media sites.
It also requests details on policies relating to non-business related use of social media by staff, what training is provided, what disciplinary action firms have taken and how companies treat record retention.
ACA says it "believes" that the sweep is designed to help the SEC review the evolving social media landscape and is advising firms to consider adopting a formal written policy and procedures.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority issued its own guidance to securities firms and brokers last year on the use of social networking Web sites to communicate with the public.
However, according to Dow Jones the watchdog is already preparing to re-examine the rapidly evolving issue. Joseph Price, SVP, corporate financing and advertising regulation, Finra, told the wire that a new task force on the issue will convene in March and issue guidance later this year.
Price says that when the original guidelines were issued last January he did not know of any brokers engaging in business communications through social-networking sites but since then pilots have been launched and "we may need to rethink those old rules".
The role of social media in advertising has also attracted the interest of UK authorities, with the FSA recently insisting financial firms must ensure they provide appropriate risk warnings when using new media to promote products and services.
Earlier this month SunGard followed in the footsteps of Actiance and moved to take advantage of this emerging regulatory response to social media with the launch of a surveillance and compliance system to help firms monitor and archive content posted by staff on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Finextra is partnering with Thomson Reuters and leading financial services firms to develop a series of one-day events exploring the use of social media within the financial services sector. The first two social media days - in London on 7 April, and New York on 18 May - feature speakers from banksimple, StockTwits, CME Group, Citi, HSBC, SEB and First Direct.