16 of Wall Street’s largest financial institutions been charged to pay a combined $1.1 billion to US regulators for not monitoring unauthorised employee messaging, announced the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday.
The companies, including Barclays Capital, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America, have agreed to pay the penalty fees for violating recordkeeping laws implemented by the SEC.
Investment banking executives, equity and debt traders within these companies have been communicating business matters on unmonitored personal devices, directly violating the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
SEC Chair Gary Gensler stated: “Finance, ultimately, depends on trust. By failing to honour their recordkeeping and books-and-records obligations, the market participants we have charged today have failed to maintain that trust. Since the 1930s, such recordkeeping has been vital to preserve market integrity. As technology changes, it’s even more important that registrants appropriately conduct their communications about business matters within only official channels, and they must maintain and preserve those communications. As part of our examinations and enforcement work, we will continue to ensure compliance with these laws.”
Along with the charges, the banks were ordered to cease and desist from further violations of the Act and required to remedy their company policies to integrate the regulation and manage employee digital communications.
Gurbir S. Grewal, director of the SEC’s division of enforcement, added: “These 16 firms not only have admitted the facts and acknowledged that their conduct violated these very important requirements, but have also started to implement measures to prevent future violations. 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.”
The SEC investigation is ongoing.
Last week, Morgan Stanley was charged with $35 million in penalty fees for failing to protect personal information for 15 million customers.