(Bloomberg) -- The US Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into whether asset managers used WhatsApp and other outside messaging apps to conduct official business, ratcheting up its probe into Wall Street’s record-keeping practices.

The regulator has recently sent letters to investment firms requesting information on their employees’ communications practices, according to three people familiar with the matter. Dozens of firms have received the queries into which devices and apps they allow for official communications, said one of the people who, like the others, asked not to be identified discussing the matter due to its sensitivity. The SEC, which declined to comment, also wants to know whether the investment firms are retaining electronic records generated on those platforms, the person said.

Under US rules, financial firms must monitor business communications to head off improper conduct. Compliance with that requirement, already made more difficult by the proliferation of mobile-messaging apps, was strained further as employees worked remotely during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Over the past year, banking giants including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have paid a record combined $2 billion in SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission penalties to settle allegations that some of their employees used unapproved channels to conduct business. Reuters reported the inquiries into money managers’ practices earlier on Tuesday. 

The SEC’s previous investigations into similar issues at brokerages put the financial services industry on notice about the agency’s stringent record-keeping expectations, according to Peter Dugas, executive director at financial compliance advisory firm Capco. “We would expect the SEC to look into investment advisers given the fact there’s so much complexity around the technology for communication within these financial institutions,” he said. 

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