Web Records Retention
Books and Records Regulation includes the website
All Asset Management firms subject to the oversight of the Investment Advisors Act that use the web to enhance or create sales channels are required by the oversight organizations to capture, archive and report web content viewed by the general web-surfing public subject to Books and Records noted in section 2210 as well as 17a-3, 17a-4 and several interpretative letters published by FINRA.
Unique, dynamic Web content is becoming more common, as a result of the increasing ease-of-use of Content Management Systems. Content can often be posted to a website in just one click. This capability is expected to become the standard as more firms move a majority of their resources into this channel. There is no reason to believe that this trend will reverse anytime soon.
One major issue is created as Websites are increasingly composed of both static and dynamic content that is 'mashed-up'. These dynamic pages can aggregate information about the funds from many sources and create content that has not been reviewed with all of the third party sources represented during the traditional approval process. Although enhanced customer interaction is needed in today's marketplace to remain competitive, a certain level of care needs to be exercised to ensure that the notice is clear and the ability to retrieve historical notices provided to clients via the web is readily available. In our discussions with industry insiders, it has been stated that the SEC has noted in exam deficiency letters that the commission considers websites to be "a 'notice', circular, advertisement, newspaper article, investment letter, bulletin, or other communication that the investment advisor circulates or distributes, directly or indirectly, 10 or more persons" and so is required to be maintained under Advisers Act rule 204-2(a)(11).
Even once the information is archived, it needs to be immediately accessible to respond to inquiries from oversight organizations including the SEC or FINRA and that it must be readily accessible for five years. Compliance with the regulation includes the capture and subsequent retrieval of all changes to the website including daily prices, updated commentaries and holdings. Printouts remain a means to achieve compliance, but now there is a choice that can save time and resources by eliminating the dependence on manual intervention.