Securities and Exchange Commission charges six Wall Street firms with widespread recordkeeping failures and improper use of text messaging in violation of securities laws. Total penalties exceed $1.1 Billion

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against 15 broker-dealers and an affiliated investment adviser for widespread failures by the firms and employees to maintain and preserve electronic communications in violation of securities laws. The firms admitted the facts set forth in their respective SEC orders, acknowledged that their conduct violated recordkeeping provisions of the federal securities laws, agreed to pay combined penalties of more than $1.1 billion, and have begun implementing improvements to their compliance policies and procedures to settle these matters.

  • The following eight firms (and five affiliates) have agreed to pay penalties of $125 million each:
    • Barclays Capital Inc.;
    • BofA Securities Inc. together with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc.;
    • Citigroup Global Markets Inc.;
    • Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC;
    • Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. together with DWS Distributors Inc. and DWS Investment Management Americas, Inc.;
    • Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC;
    • Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC together with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC; and
    • UBS Securities LLC together with UBS Financial Services Inc.
  • The following two firms have agreed to pay penalties of $50 million each:
    • Jefferies LLC; and
    • Nomura Securities International, Inc.
  • Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. has agreed to pay a $10 million penalty.

The SEC staff’s investigation uncovered pervasive off-channel communications.

From January 2018 through September 2021, the firms’ employees routinely communicated about business matters using text messaging applications on their personal devices. The firms did not maintain or preserve the substantial majority of these off-channel communications, in violation of the federal securities laws. By failing to maintain and preserve required records relating to their businesses, the firms’ actions likely deprived the Commission of these off-channel communications in various Commission investigations. The failings occurred across all of the 16 firms and involved employees at multiple levels of authority, including supervisors and senior executives.

Each of the 15 broker-dealers was charged with violating certain recordkeeping provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and with failing reasonably to supervise with a view to preventing and detecting those violations. DWS Investment Management Americas, Inc., the investment adviser, was charged with violating certain recordkeeping provisions of the Investment Advisers of 1940 and with failing reasonably to supervise with a view to preventing and detecting those violations.

In addition to the significant financial penalties, each of the firms was ordered to cease and desist from future violations of the relevant recordkeeping provisions and were censured. The firms also agreed to retain compliance consultants to, among other things, conduct comprehensive reviews of their policies and procedures relating to the retention of electronic communications found on personal devices and their respective frameworks for addressing non-compliance by their employees with those policies and procedures.

Separately, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission announced settlements with the firms for related conduct.

The SEC’s investigation, which is ongoing, is being conducted by Zachary Sturges and Karen Willenken of the New York Regional Office, Ian Rupell of the SEC’s Headquarters, and HelenAnne Listerman and Jessica Neiterman of the Asset Management Unit. The case is being supervised by Thomas P. Smith Jr., Osman Nawaz, Carolyn Welshhans, Corey Schuster, and Laura Josephs.

Jeffrey Newman is a whistleblower lawyer with the firm Newman & Shapiro and can be reached at 978-880-4758 or at Jnewman@Newmanshapiro.com