Morgan Stanley announced on Friday that it had agreed to pay $200 million to US regulators to settle investigations into its record-keeping practices.
According to a filing, the bank will pay the Securities and Exchange Commission $125 million and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission $75 million to end examinations into employee interactions on messaging systems that were not allowed by the firm.
Morgan Stanley had already budgeted $200 million for the penalty in its second-quarter earnings. Separately, Bank of America set aside approximately $200 million for improper electronic messages by its employees, while Citigroup (C.N) and Barclays set aside cash to pay similar anticipated fines.
The SEC has been looking into whether Wall Street banks have been adequately logging employees’ text messages and emails as bankers moved to remote working during the pandemic. Regulators require banks to keep records of their staff communications and typically ban the use of personal email, texts, and messaging applications for work purposes
Finance firms are required to scrupulously monitor communications involving their business. That system, already challenged by the proliferation of mobile-messaging apps, was strained further as firms sent workers home shortly after the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. Investigators have been looking into banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Morgan Stanley reported the spending figure in its second-quarter earnings report, stating it was “due to a specific regulatory situation addressing the use of prohibited personal devices and the firm’s record-keeping responsibilities.” Total non-interest expenses were $9.71 billion, up from $9.53 billion expected by experts.
The SEC and the CFTC fined JPMorgan $200 million in December, alleging that even managing directors and other senior supervisors at the bank avoided regulatory monitoring by utilizing services like WhatsApp or personal email accounts for work-related communication. Citigroup claimed in a filing in February that it was working with the SEC to investigate “communications conducted across prohibited electronic messaging channels.”
The investigation has caused havoc in the banking industry. Bloomberg reported last month that Deutsche Bank AG’s management board agreed to reduce bonuses for last year’s performance. After reviewing some employees’ personal mobile-phone chats on platforms such as WhatsApp, HSBC Holdings Plc fired a trader in London.