LPL Financial Ordered to Pay $7.5M FINRA Fine Over E-Mail Failures

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that LPL Financial LLC must pay a $7.5 million fine for inadequately supervising more than 28 million business emails between 2007 and 2013. This is the largest fine the SRO has ever imposed over an e-mail case.

According to FINRA, LPL’s systems for overseeing and storing e-mails failed a minimum of 35 times. It contends that the firm did not succeed in fulfilling its duty to retain e-mails, supervise its representatives, and properly respond to requests by regulators. The SRO attributes these problems to the brokerage firm’s failure to put enough resources toward updating its e-mail system as its business grew quickly.

Among the e-mail failures:

• Not keeping up access to hundreds of millions of emails during migration to a less costly email archive (80 million emails were corrupted)
• Not retaining and reviewing 3.5 million Bloomberg messages over a seven-year period
• Not archiving emails received by customers via third party advertising platforms transmitted via e-mail.

In addition to the paying the fine, LPL will have to set up a $1.5 million fund to pay brokerage customers that may have been affected by the e-mail failures. However, by settling this FINRA case, the broker-dealer is not denying or admitting to wrongdoing. The financial firm maintains that it is the one that reported the e-mail issues to FINRA in 2011. It also says that it has taken on a thorough redesign of its e-mail systems, policies, and procedures while working with independent experts to make sure the proper actions are taken.

Institutional Investment Fraud Lawyer William Shepherd disagrees with LPL’s claim that no wrongdoing occurred: “Some observers claim that this firm has done nothing but carry insurance and not supervise its brokers for years. They all but said so when they asked one of their client OSJs to consider taking over conducting supervision for them. In other words they wanted to become some sort of clearing firm that also gets a piece of the commission pie. This fine and action demonstrates in no uncertain terms that they simply did not supervise.”

FINRA also claims that during its investigation into this matter, LPL made misstatements, including the statement that the e-mail problems weren’t identified in June 2011 when firm staff had information that could have allowed the issues to be sussed out in 2008. A LPL is also accused of making the misstatement that there were no red flags to help identify these e-mail issues when actually there were.

The e-mail system problems resulted in the firm’s failure to produce all the emails that state and federal regulators asked for. The SRO speculates that the brokerage firm may have even failed to give certain private litigations and FINRA arbitration claimants the emails that they needed.

LPL to Pay $9 Million for Systemic Email Failures and for Making Misstatements to FINRA, FINRA, May 21, 2013

FINRA fines LPL Financial $9 million for email violations, Reuters, May 21, 2013

More Blog Posts:
LPL Financial Continues to Stay on Regulators’ Radar, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 10, 2013

LPL Financial Ordered to Pay $100K for Lack of Adequate Oversight that Resulted in Unsuitable Investments for Clients, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 29, 2011

SEC Submits Request for Data on Whether to Make Brokers & Investment Advisers Abide by Uniform Fiduciary Standard, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 4, 2013