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US regulators fined 16 Wall Street firms a total of $1.1 billion over failures to keep electronic records such as text messages between employees, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Tuesday.
Barclays, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs were among the firms that agreed to pay $125 million each to settle the charges.
An SEC press release faulted the companies over "longstanding failures" to maintain and preserve electronic communications that must be available to regulators in the course of oversight.
"Finance, ultimately, depends on trust. By failing to honor their recordkeeping and books-and-records obligations, the market participants we have charged today have failed to maintain that trust," said SEC Chair Gary Gensler in a statement. "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."
An SEC investigation uncovered "pervasive off-channel communications" involving a range of senior and junior investment bankers and traders.
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These omissions "likely" deprived the SEC of communications in agency probes, the press release said.
Other financial giants agreeing to a $125 million settlement were Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and UBS. Jefferies and Nomura agreed to penalties of $50 million each, while Cantor Fitzgerald agreed to a $10 million penalty.
The SEC in December 2021 fined JPMorgan Chase $125 million for the offense, spurring an industry-wide regulatory crackdown on poor recordkeeping, the SEC said.