Banks and other financial institutions face unique issues when it comes to the use of social media. Faced with conflicts between social media platform rules, customer expectations, self-regulatory standards, and the strict regulations that govern the industry, guidance has been needed. The industry received some of that guidance recently through a whitepaper issued by BITS, the technology arm of The Financial Services Roundtable whose members are 100 of the largest financial institutions in the U.S.The report addresses the compliance, legal, operational, and reputational risks - and related mitigation strategies - of using social media in connection with a financial or banking operation. Regarding compliance, the report discusses the myriad of compliance areas relevant to banks, including marketing, privacy and security. For example, because social media web sites and web activities are deemed advertising by regulators, the report warns of the risks of failing to comply with various marketing laws and regulations applicable to the banking industry, including state Unfair and Deceptive Acts or Practices Acts and Prize and Gift Acts, as well as others that require additional steps for financial institutions, such as Truth in Lending, Truth in Savings, and FDIC membership rules. The paper predicts even stronger and more subjective requirements to come under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Risks of non-compliance vary widely - from litigation and reputation risk, regulatory enforcement actions and in some cases civil money penalties.
One issue still bobbing below the social networking surface is disclosure of trade secrets, such as a client/customer list, through use of social networking. With seemingly everyone, including us here at the Info Law Group, connecting to business associates and potential and actual clients, the question is not academic.
Social networking entails some risks and responsibilities. It may implicate privacy and labor law, confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, advertising regulations, defamation, and other legal regimes, across borders in a global medium. Users, and their employers, need to be aware of these risks and responsibilities in deciding how to make best use of social media.