Email Snafu Costs ING Subsidiaries $1.2 Million Fine

February 19, 2013

English: email envelope

For the purpose of proposing a settlement of rule violations alleged by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA"), without admitting or denying the findings, prior to a regulatory hearing, and without an adjudication of any issue, Directed Services, LLC, ING; America Equities, Inc.; ING Financial Advisers, LLC; ING Financial Partners, Inc.; and ING Investment Advisors, LLC submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent ("AWC"), which FINRA accepted. In the Matter of Directed Services, LLC, ING; America Equities, Inc.; ING Financial Advisers, LLC; ING Financial Partners, Inc.; and ING Investment Advisors, LLC, Respondents (AWC 20120312700301, February 19, 2013).

The five cited FINRA member firm respondents are indirect subsidiaries of ING Groep N.V.

  • Directed Services, LLC; ING America Equities, Inc.; and ING Financial Advisers, LLC are wholesale broker-dealers primarily engaged in underwriting/distributing variable annuities issued by ING affiliate
  • ING Financial Partners, Inc. is a retail broker-dealer engaged in the sale of general securities.
  • ING Investment Advisors, LLC. is a broker-dealer and provides support for recordkeeping and other services for ING's retirement service.

The AWC asserts that ING Financial Advisers ("IFA") was censured and fined $25,000 pursuant to a March 2010 AWCs as a result of alleged supervisory failures in connection with the failure to timely update U4 filings to reflect outside business activities. Also, pursuant to a February 2008 AWC, IFA was fined $15,000 for alleged failures to timely report customer complaints and related supervisory violatios

According to the AWC, between 2004 and 2012, the five respondent ING subsidiaries allegedly failed to properly configure hundreds of employee email accounts to ensure that the emails sent to and from those accounts were retained and reviewed. Four of the firms purportedly failed to set up systems to retain certain types of emails, such as emails:

  • using alternative email addresses,
  • sent to distribution lists,
  • received as blind carbon copies,
  • encrypted emails and "cloud" email (emails sent through third-party systems).

As a result of the above cited failures, emails sent to and from hundreds of employees and associated persons were not retained and as a result of this failure, were not subjected to required supervisory reviews.

At various times between January 2005 and May 2011, nearly six million emails flagged for review went unreviewed by supervisory principals at four of the respondent firms because the email review software was not properly configured.

In accordance with the terms of the AWC, FINRA imposed upon the respondents a Censure and a joint and several fine of $1.2 million. FINRA also ordered the firms to conduct a comprehensive review of their systems for the capture, retention and review of email, and to subsequently certify that they have established procedures reasonably designed to address and correct the violations.