Are Yours? Do You Even Know It is Happening?
One website that is growing in popularity for advisors is Yelp.com. The ability to list your business and have people leave reviews is very tempting for advisors to use in hopes of gaining new clients. Unfortunately the use of Yelp is in direct violation of the SEC’s “Testimonial Rule” under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.
Recently, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged three advisers and a marketing firm for violating the testimonial rule by promoting their business on Yelp. These three advisors worked with a marketing company to solicit testimonials from clients asking them to post their reviews on the investment adviser's behalf to Yelp and other social media websites. Each of these advisors were fined $10,000. The marketing firm received cease-and-desist orders and were required to pay civil penalties of $35,000.
YouTube is another platform that is rising in usage by advisors resulting in violations and fines. An Illinois-based RIA, was fined $15,000 for creating a 31-minute-long YouTube video that featured testimonials from multiple clients. The video was published on their public website and YouTube.com, and was shown to guests at a party celebrating the firm's 50th anniversary. This YouTube video was also in direct violation with the SEC’s “Testimonial Rule”.
Are you actively monitoring Yelp and YouTube for these type of SEC infractions from your registered advisors?
It can be difficult even knowing where to start. Over 4.6 million businesses are using Yelp. With an ever increasing 163 million Yelp reviews how are you to know if your advisors are actively soliciting testimonials from their clients?
Adding to your monitoring struggle is YouTube. It is estimated that over 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute! With over 1 billion daily users how are you to find videos uploaded to YouTube by your registered advisors if they don’t send you the direct links?
Eagle Eye is a solution. With Eagle Eye precision our application will help you quickly identify any social media accounts including Yelp and YouTube that your registered advisors own. Allowing your firm to take action and comply with the SEC’s requirements. Eagle Eye’s automated documentation and screenshots of your findings will help you respond to a regulator.
We’d love to show you more. Contact SiteQuest Technologies today to see how our application can aid in your supervision responsibilities, saving you time and lowering your risk.
Related Article: Trends when it comes to supervising the web.
Related Article: Known Compliance Gaps
Sources: SEC.gov | Investment News
In January of this year FINRA release it “2018 Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter”. High-risk firms and rogue brokers were one of the top concerns cited by President and CEO, Robert Cook.
Then on April 30, 2018, FINRA released it Regulatory Notice 18-15 regarding Heightened Supervision. FINRA noted that there are times where heightened supervision of an advisor may be appropriate. This notice stated that “FINRA requires member firms to establish and maintain supervisory systems for each of their associated persons and to test and verify annually that they have established reasonable procedures, including procedures for heightened supervision of associated persons, where necessary.”
In May at FINRA’s Annual Conference there was a discussion regarding the criteria FINRA uses to identify high-risk activity. This discussion noted that FINRA is looking for:
Several times this year FINRA has stressed the importance of “heightened supervision for high-risk brokers”. This should be one of the top priorities for your firm.
Do you have WSPs addressing these issues?
Are they causing you additional time, work, documentation, strain, and monitoring for your supervision department?
Our Eagle Eye application has an innovative “Heighten Supervision Mode”. The flexibility of this application empowers you to monitor your advisors at a variety of levels. For those that push the envelope a heightened level of supervision may be required. Eagle Eye will dig deep and with “Eagle Eye” precision discover and notify you of your advisors’ online presence.
Eagle Eye allows you to customize your supervisory approach without worry, and without additional charges or fees. Contact us today for your personalized demo and we will show you how our “Heightened Supervision Mode” will benefit your firm.
Recently the Division of Securities, Utah Department of Commerce fined two credit unions and a licensed broker-dealer for failing to supervise the advisors working within the credit unions. (read the full report)
These credit unions are not registered broker-dealers or investment advisors. They entered into a networking agreement with a third-party broker-dealer to provide securities brokerage services to their credit union customers through registered representatives. In this case, the parties involved were not closely monitoring the actions and communications of these advisors with regards to how the advisors and the credit unions branded these services. The “lines were being blurred” and it was not clearly disclosed that these advisors worked for the third-party investment service provider, and not for the credit unions.
The emails, marketing materials, communications in print and electronic were not being supervised and in the view of the regulator, causing confusion with customers being misled. As a result, the broker-dealers and the credit unions were fined $750,000.
FINRA and the SEC are not the only regulatory agencies requiring firms to monitor their advisors. Each state has their own division of securities regulators.
Have you entered into a third-party agreement with another company to provide security brokerage services to their clients? Do you have advisors that are working in the facilities of these partners?
The biggest question of all is, “Are you sufficiently monitoring your advisors and their online presence?”
The use of our Eagle Eye application would have identified where the broker dealers’ presence was online such as social media, blogs, online articles, Yelp, YouTube and more, allowing you to review each URL. Our SQWatcher application would have alerted you to any changes on their websites ensuring that your supervision department could review and approve wording changes before they go live on the web.
We’d love to tell you more. Contact SiteQuest Technologies today to see how our applications can aid in your supervision responsibilities, saving you time and lowering your risk.
In September 2017, a West Coast financial firm was fined $35,000 by FINRA. It was found that the firm failed to maintain documentation or review the websites maintained by the firm’s registered representatives. (read full report) Are you responsible for monitoring your registered representatives’ websites and online presence? It can become a daunting and time-consuming task. SiteQuest Technologies brings you years of experience when it comes to web monitoring, archiving, and website analysis.
SQWatcher is our second product in this category and we have added cutting-edge technology that makes it even easier for you to keep track of what’s going on with your website(s). SQWatcher is configured with specialized “watchers” that look for the types of website changes you want to review. This technology offers a lot of flexibility allowing SQWatcher to adapt to your needs. Our archiving feature backs-up your website(s) daily so that you have a running history to help you quickly and easily respond to a regulator when audited.
In addition, this West Coast firm was also fined for “failure to establish a policy or system for approval, for their registered representatives’ business social media accounts, and did not review, approve, supervise, or retain any of the social media accounts maintained by registered representatives for securities-related business purposes.”
“failure to establish a policy or system for approval, for their registered representatives’ business social media accounts, and did not review, approve, supervise, or retain any of the social media accounts maintained by registered representatives for securities-related business purposes.”
Our Eagle Eye program will help you quickly identify any social media accounts that your registered representatives own. Allowing your firm to take action and comply with FINRA requirements. The system's automated documentation and screenshots of your findings will help you respond to a regulator.
Don’t let the time constraints of monitoring and documenting your advisor sites and web presence open you up to fines and the associated internal and external costs of a FINRA investigation like the one received by this firm. The cost of our Eagle Eye and SQWatcher programs are significantly smaller. Save time and money while protecting your firm from preventable fines. Our Eagle Eye and SQWatcher programs have two separate purposes, but working together they become a force multiplier in aiding our clients with their responsibilities.
Contact us today for your personalized demo. We will help match our programs to your needs.
Source: FINRA Case #2013034981501
Each January we like to look back at our growth and progress from the previous year, as we plan for the future and work diligently to make sure that we are meeting our client's needs and expectations. 2017 was a record-breaking year for SiteQuest Technologies.
During 2017, Eagle Eye celebrated its 4th year as one of our premier programs. Our first ever Eagle Eye client still utilizes this product and loves the ease and convenience of this program. More and more clients are discovering Eagle Eye and adding it to their firm’s resources. We doubled the number of individuals Eagle Eye monitored in 2017, resulting in over 122 million scans of the web.
Our SQWatcher program had several updates making this program an even greater resource for our clients. SQWatcher is WORM compliant when it comes to storage. We have added YouTube channel monitoring and archiving to this program as well. We also improved the bulk discarding/archiving options in the SQWatcher workflow.
We increased our client base by 25% in 2017, and this has made our team here at SiteQuest Technologies eager for 2018. We look forward to increased client interactions and helping with the challenges that a new year brings. Thank you for being part of this great growth.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally. I look forward to another great year of continued development and expansion for SiteQuest Technologies.
About James Cella
James Cella is the President of a growing and innovative compliance technology provider called SiteQuest Technologies. James is a customer-centric individual and focuses on building and sustaining positive and lasting relationship with his clients and partners. James and his family are "super fans" of Utah Football and have attended nearly every home game since 2002. Go Utes!