Friday, September 23, 2011

TWEETING, POSTING, and FRIENDING: Social media’s two-edged sword for Investment Advisers

Regulators and compliance departments alike have been shaking their heads at the potential pitfalls of social media. How to support and allow Investment Adviser’s to use social media tools and still protect the investor from bad actors and misinterpreted posts or tweets is no easy task. The rapid fire tweets and the “share everything” mentality become permanent, potentially discoverable, records. But Investment Advisers are finding that social media provides valuable avenues never before available to share and gain information, to find new clients, and to better understand existing clientele.

This week, the Wall Street Journal had an article on this very subject. While little official guidance has been provided to Registered Investment Adviser firms on proper social media policies, reviewing the current guidelines for client communication can offer guidance to compliance and legal departments when they are requested to develop a road map for their firm and its social media policies. The potential pitfall in having a detailed policy is that once it is in black and white, it must be followed, and either an individual or a department must be charged with ensuring this—quite a task for a such a vast medium. However, given the free-range but permanent aspects of social media, RIA’s of all sizes should begin discussing and seeking legal counsel on how they will address this matter given the current regulations in place that govern client and potential client communications. The alternative--waiting for a post or a tweet to cause a problem--can be a dangerous course to take.

Additionally, many employees may appreciate the guidance and opportunity to hear and be heard on this matter as they try to use social media to the best use without exposing their record or license to unnecessary risk. Part of being in a highly regulated industry is staying ahead of the curve so that potential problems don’t become actual ones.

FINRA has provided Broker Dealers with specific guidelines regarding social media. Using these rules as a framework for RIA’s social media policies may be another helpful tool when the RIA firm is looking for a place to start the discussion on this topic.

Cosgrove Law, LLC offers consulting to RIA firms on a wide range of compliance matters.

No comments:

Post a Comment