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Firms, Brokers Get FINRA Social Networking Guidance

Melissa Klein Aguilar | February 2, 2010

Yet another sign that social media is impacting the way many companies do business: The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the self-regulatory organization for all securities firms doing business in the United States, has issued guidance for securities firms and brokers regarding the use of blogs and social networking Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to communicate with the public.

The Q&A guidance in Regulatory Notice 10-06 clarifies firms' responsibilities to supervise the use of social networking sites to ensure that recommendations are suitable and that customers aren't misled. The guidance also addresses firms' recordkeeping and other responsibilities.

FINRA developed the guidance in response to inquiries about how its rules governing communications with the public, recordkeeping, and supervision apply to the use of social media sites by firms and their registered representatives.

"Social networking sites and blogs raise new regulatory challenges, particularly in the areas of supervision, advertising, and books and records requirements," FINRA Chairman and CEO Rick Ketchum said. "Our goal in issuing this Notice is to ensure that firms and brokers use social networking sites in an appropriate manner."

FINRA said the guidance was informed by its own staff experience in applying its rules to electronic communications, conversations with experts in social networking technology, and by a Social Networking Task Force composed of compliance and other representatives of 14 firms.

The Notice specifies that firms must develop policies and procedures that are "best designed to ensure that the firm and its personnel comply with all applicable requirements."

"Every firm should consider the guidance provided by this Notice in the context of its own business and its compliance and supervisory programs," the Notice states.