By Jed Horowitz
NEW YORK, June 30 (Reuters) - Morgan Stanley is
further opening the social media door for its brokers by
allowing them to post self-authored content on firm-approved
Morgan Stanley, the world's largest brokerage firm as
measured by its more than 16,000 financial advisers, has until
now limited them to tweeting scripted messages it prepared on
the economy, general investment themes, wealth management
concepts and some lifestyle topics.
The company told advisers on Monday that if they take an
online training course that can be completed in about 20 minutes
and have at least 15 followers - a pittance by the standards of
Twitter, where Justin Bieber has 52.6 million followers - they
can create their own 140-character messages and retweet content
Morgan Stanley is the first of the big U.S. brokerages - the
others are Wells Fargo & Co's Wells Fargo Advisors, Bank
of America's Merrill Lynch and UBS AG's UBS
Wealth Management Americas - to allow such leeway, said
Valentina Chtchedrine, executive director for digital marketing
The firm has allowed self-created messages on LinkedIn since
July 2012, and has not run into any regulatory problems, she
To date, about 6,500 Morgan Stanley advisers are approved to
use LinkedIn, with 1,300 of them also approved to tweet.
Advisers used to instant gratification with their personal
Twitter accounts will have to put up with delayed gratification
in their professional lives. All messages and status updates are
moderated by a supervisor, with a decision on approval generally
coming within several hours, Chtchedrine said.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the securities
industry's self-regulatory arm, has told firms they must keep
records of all social media communication and that content must
adhere to federal laws and rules limiting advertising and
testimonials. Brokers are not permitted to write about
particular investments, offer forecasts or discuss more risky
offerings such as commodities or structured products that
"It's basically common sense," Chtchedrine said.
The firm initially expected social media to be used by
younger people, "but we find it's being adopted by advisers,
clients and prospects of all ages," she said.
FINRA has brought only a few actions over social networking
The most notorious involved Jenny Ta, founder of a small
firm called Titan Securities in Dallas. On Dec. 15, 2009, for
example, she tweeted: "Its going 2 b a good Xmas & 2010! Ck out
AMD! Like I have said, it should b @ least a $10B co. which
should b @ $ 15/shs. HappyTrading!"
In September 2010, she consented to a fine of $10,000 and
suspension from the securities industry for a year for using
Twitter to promote stocks in which she and family members held
positions, including Advanced MicroDevices.
According to FINRA's BrokerCheck website, Ta, who worked for
seven brokerage firms over 15 years, is not currently licensed
to sell securities.
(Reporting By Jed Horowitz; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)