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Using Social Media for Regulation FD Compliance

Full disclosure. You’ve probably heard that many times as a way to show that the speaker has a vested interest in what they are saying. When it comes to public companies, full disclosure is not a whim, but rather a fundamental requirement. It helps keep the modern stock markets fair (along with other regulations).

SEC-2000

Regulation FD (Reg FD), passed in 2000, is an SEC reporting requirement that mandates that all publicly traded companies must disclose material information to all investors at the same time. The regulation was a response to the rapid expansion of online trading and the power of the open internet. On the online trading side, millions of users now had the ability to execute trades with a click of a button. On the communication side, there was a new ability to disseminate information. The internet created a need for more open disclosure and the ability to deliver it.

Previously, company information such as financial results and material changes was distributed to analysts via conference calls. Access to this information was restricted, and it created an environment where large players (who employed the analysts) had access to market-changing information before the public.

Now, under Reg FD, reporting companies need to deliver the information to all the public at the same time. Traditionally, press releases serve this function. But press releases can be slow to produce, cumbersome to manage and costly (especially to the ~ 14,000 small issuers that trade on the OTC). Every time an issuer needs to report information, they’d have to write, edit, approve and release news. And, press releases for financial disclosure are not cheap.

Old School Disclosure – Press Releases

Consider, one well-known press-release service charges $750 for one release. Each company needs to do at least three quarterly’s (10-Q) and one annual (10-K). Also, throughout the year any company worth their salt will be doing deals, adding resources, or whatever they can do to improve their business. If these are significant enough, these must also be reported.

As of April 2, 2013,  the SEC made a clarification that companies can now use social media to comply with Reg FD! This is a determination that social media is now widespread enough that is provides

“another method or combination of methods that is reasonably designed to effect broad, non-exclusionary distribution of the information to the public.”

For public companies, this is a game changer on how they comply with Reg FD. They don’t have to spend hours upon hours drafting a press release and spending thousands upon thousands for straightforward compliance. They can now use their social media accounts to quickly and cost-effectively distribute their material information in a fair and SEC sanctioned manner.

In October 2015, Goldman Sachs’ took the initiative and started using their website and Twitter to distribute official documents. While now, this might be an exception, it is inevitable that this method of distribution will become the standard. The savings in time, complexity and cost are too powerful to ignore and the internet will take over another industry.

Of course, there are specific rules and guidelines to follow. A company can’t just post a Tweet and think that’s it. Here are best practices to follow:

Twitter
There are many social media channels out there. However, some obscure network with limited following can’t be considered broad, non-exclusionary distribution. Facebook has an algorithm that determines what shows up on a feed; not all posts will appear. Thus, the most appropriate social media network for Reg FD compliance is Twitter.

Proper Notification
Announce before any disclosure what channel you will be using. Put it on your website, your filings, your press releases, anywhere and everywhere you can so your investors and regulators know exactly where to watch. Be consistent, timely and regular on your Tweets so that it becomes the go-to source for such information.

Trusted Source
Who is creating the Tweet? Are they the party responsible for such disclosures? You want to ensure that the Tweet is accurate, from the proper channel and that it is authentic. Effective security and collaboration processes are vital.

Other SEC Regulations
Reg FD is, of course, only one of many SEC requirements. Posting on Twitter does not negate any of those. Consider forward-looking statements and the inclusion of meaningful risk factors. Are there other Tweets that might get entangled with the Reg FD Tweets? While Twitter might make the disclosure creation easier, it’s still a legal record and your legal team should sign off.

Archiving
As with all sensitive business communications, a proper record is imperative. You don’t want to rely on Twitter in the case of an audit. They have no duty to save your Tweets. Don’t rely on techniques that can’t be verified or are susceptible to alteration. You need a provable, accurate record of EXACTLY what you disclosed and when.

SEC regulatory notices concerning web and social media sites explicitly state that firms must retain records of all business-related electronic communications to remain compliant. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in hefty fines, bad publicity, and ultimately loss of business. It’s critical your company implements a robust records retention policy for your websites and social media pages. You must preserve your online presence in a way that’s regulation-compliant, user-friendly, and, above all, affordable.

social-media

That’s where PageFreezer steps in. PageFreezer is a web and social media archiving service that is archiving over 600 public companies, financial firms, government agencies and other major organizations. We know exactly what regulators are looking for regarding accurate record keeping and ensure your archives are secure, authentic and easy to produce in case of an audit.

With a proven, trusted archiving system in place you’ll never be caught flat-footed, scrambling to deliver accurate records. You don’t want to spend hours and hours trying to produce records, or worse, sanctioned by the SEC.

PageFreezer offers an enterprise-class SaaS solution, built to support even the most sophisticated websites, blogs, and many social media networks. All accessible on one platform. With PageFreezer, you get complete archives of ALL your web content — without a lot of hassle.

Online Records Retention

5 Tips For Online Records Retention

How is your business dealing with the issue of digital record-keeping and online document security? Do you feel confident that you could present your records as authentic evidence to a regulator or judge? How quickly could you locate and obtain particular records or web pages if you were asked to produce them? These are the hard questions that smart businesses will ask themselves in the midst of rapidly changing digital world. Financial companies, publicly traded companies, and even governments must recognize the need for retention solutions that are up-to-speed with today’s new technologies (also the new regulations and demands that accompany them.) If your online back-up plan needs an overhaul, keep these points in mind during the remodeling.

1. Fragmention is not your friend.

Document management and compliance experts say when it comes to digital records, companies can get bogged down in narrow issues rather than looking at the big picture. Backup systems, software options, and other management solutions can be distracting from a focus on the overall flow and efficiency of the company. Here’s the deal: you’ve got lots of online content. It all needs to be preserved impeccably if you’re to remain both compliant (to records laws) and prepared (for legal situations).  PageFreezer speaks to that comprehensive approach by providing regular and secure archiving of all your online activity — as much or as little as you specify. No fragmentation — just seamless, automatic preservation of your records.

2. Regulation compliance may not be enough.

While it’s nice to know you’re in line with SOX, SEC, or FINRA requirements, bear in mind that the risk of litigation against your company is a pressing issue that must be addressed.  Many companies mistakenly believe that being in compliance with records retention laws automatically means their records won’t be challenged in court. Not so! As noted by Financial Advisor Magazine in an article on the subject, courts are increasingly questioning the validity of digital records.

A stunning example of this is the 2005 case of Vee Vinhee vs. American Express Travel Related Services Company Inc. — in which Vinhee (who was filing bankruptcy while owing over $40,000 to AmEx) won his case without legal representation and without even attending the trial. Amex lost because the company rested its case on its internal computer records, which could not be proven authentic to the satisfaction of the court.

3. You have the burden of proof.

The example above highlights the fact that companies are being held responsible for proving the authenticity of their records. The court must be convinced of the fact that the records have not been tampered with. According to Judge Christopher Klein (in his comments on the Vinhee case), the key issue is that the record is what it purports to be.  Is your business prepared to shoulder the burden of proof in court? It’s not such a burden when you utilize PageFreezer — we put a digital signature and timestamp on every page to assure data integrity and authenticity. Plus, we employ powerful search features that help you find the exact records you need, when you need them.

4. Better safe than sorry.

Another case concerning the admissibility of online records was that of Lorraine vs. Markel American Insurance Company (dated May 4, 2007).  This suit dealt with lightening damage to a yacht that was owned by Jack Lorraine and insured by Marckel. Both sides presented e-mail evidence to support their claims, but the submissions were rejected by Chief U. S. Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm. He said they failed to meet the FRE standards for admissible evidence. It was a landmark ruling in the arena of digital evidence. Grimm noted in his statement about the ruling, if it is critical to the success of your case to admit into evidence computer-stored records, it would be prudent to plan to authenticate the records by the most rigorous standards that may be applied. In other words, better safe than sorry! Choose the safe route — PageFreezer preserves your archives according to the highest standards possible.

5. Delegate — and breathe easier.

The whole issue of online records retention can be a real headache in today’s ever-changing technological climate. Companies drive themselves crazy trying to stay on top of the regulations and requirements! Don’t underestimate the peace of mind that comes with delegating this matter to a reliable outside service like PageFreezer. We handle the technology and shoulder the responsibility of maintaining perfect records for your business because you have other things to do. Feel free to do them while we archive your websites — keeping your company informed, compliant, and prepared.

PageFreezer tops “Archival Acid Test”

Web archiving continues to be a critical issue as companies and organizations search for the most foolproof methods of preserving their online content. There are numerous tools and services out there, but how can you be sure which one can stand up to its claims? The primary concern is that an archived page with complex content can be very hard to capture and replay perfectly.

To investigate the strengths and weaknesses of various archiving tools, the Web Science and Digital Libraries Research Group at Old Dominion University developed an “Archival Acid Test”. The test evaluates features which modern browsers execute well, but preservation tools often have trouble handling (such as Javascript, CSS, and HTML5 content). The researchers tested five web archiving services – Archive.org, Archive.is, Mummify.it (no longer functional), Perma.cc, and WebCite – along with the archiving tools Heritrix, WARCreate, and GNU Wget. The findings were published by the University in a paper, which revealed that none of the tools tested were able to fully render a captured version of the elements that displayed perfectly in a live web browser (such as Chrome).

Since PageFreezer is industry-leading in its ability to capture and replay web content, we asked the group to put our service to the test. The results were telling – PageFreezer was the only tool to pass every requirement, even advanced features!

PageFreezer archiving acid test graphWhen you are using PageFreezer, you can be confident that you are working with the most advanced website archiving solution available. It makes PageFreezer a smart choice for regulatory compliance and other cases where accuracy and completeness are critical.

Archives on Demand

At PageFreezer, we believe in making website archiving easy. Really easy. That’s why we developed a user interface that puts you in charge. You can manage, edit, and fine-tune your archives without having to contact customer service or put in a request. The power is yours!

We even made it possible for you to create an instant archive of your website (or social media page) anytime you choose. This handy-dandy feature puts you in control and allows you to…

  • Save storage space. If your website doesn’t change frequently, you may choose to capture it only once per day or week. This helps you save storage space (and money). With archiving-on-demand available, you don’t have to worry about altering your archiving schedule if sudden changes are made to your site. Just take an instant snapshot and you’re good to go.

  • Be prepared for anything. Many companies archive their sites for litigation protection or regulatory compliance. If you suddenly need to produce a current copy of your website, you can do so easily, with no wait time.

  • Confidently update your website. Suppose you are working on an entirely new website, or doing a major overhaul of the one you have. You can feel confident about changing content when an instant archive is always available. This also goes for temporary pages or when you need to delete comments off your blog or social media page. No need to wait for the next regularly scheduled capture — just archive instantly and proceed with confidence!

On-demand archiving is simple to use. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Log into your PageFreezer account

  2. Find the website you wish to capture and click “edit” on the right

  3. At the bottom of the Settings page, click “Advanced”

  4. That little button that says ARCHIVE NOW — click it!

Ta-da! Instant archive. You get a fully functional copy of your site as it exists right now, that stands as admissible evidence in court. Plus, you get that peaceful feeling that you have covered your bases before making changes to your site. And it happened with a few simple clicks. Now that was easy!