SEC Says Investment Advisors Can Publish Third-Party Endorsements Online

The Securities and Exchange Commission says that investment advisers are allowed to publish comments from the public about their services on an independent social media website but that they must include both negative and positive reviews in unedited form. Also, the adviser must not have any affiliation with the site or the ability to influence it. The SEC made the announcement this week in a guidance update.

SEC rules typically don’t allow “testimonials.” The guidance, however, now says that Commission-registered advisers can direct potential clients to the reviews as long as certain conditions are met. The changes are in part because of the rapidly evolving social media market and the fact that this area is becoming a primary way that businesses communicate with prospective customers.

The regulator said that client reviews could only appear on review sites or independent social media. This means, for example, that they cannot be published on an adviser Facebook page. Also, an adviser cannot promise a customer anything in return for favorable reviews and employees are not allowed to write these testimonials.

Advisers cannot use client endorsements as part of their advertising materials. They can, however, publish these testimonials from an independent review site in a way that is “content-neutral,” such as alphabetically or chronologically.

Investment advisers that want to use Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn as part of their business will likely feel relief about the new guidance. The SEC’s guidance says that even a “fan” page of the adviser set up by an independent party would not be a violation of the testimonial rule. The regulator, however, warned against investment advisers including a hyperlink to the third party site on its own web pages.

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