The SEC’s long-time policy for broker-dealers is to keep records of their business activities in a non-rewritable, non-erasable format – otherwise known as WORM (Write Once Read Many). But with new amendments to Rule 17a-4, broker-dealers are provided an audit trail alternative to keeping data in WORM format. Beginning May 3, 2023, firms will be required to comply with the new record-keeping regulations.
The final amendments grant flexibility to broker-dealers when meeting these requirements. They can choose to either: (1) preserve documents in WORM format, or (2) preserve electronic records in a system that maintains a timestamped audit trail. These can take the form of cloud-based systems, distributed ledger technology, or other emerging technologies.
This rule can be interpreted in a few different ways. First, firms can retain some electronic records with an audit trail and preserve other records with the WORM requirement. Second, firms may use an electronic recordkeeping system that meets the audit trail and WORM requirements. Either way, broker-dealers should ensure their programs are compliant as of May 3rd, 2023, or face the stiff penalties associated with non-compliance.
With the compliance date approaching, broker-dealers should review their record retention practices and expand the review beyond WORM vs Audit Trail alternatives. By proactively evaluating existing record retention practices and identifying any gaps before the compliance date, broker-dealers can ensure that their records are up-to-date and compliant with the new regulations.