The list of firms and their respective settlement totals are:
- Northwestern Mutual Investment Services LLC, together with Northwestern Mutual Investment Management Co. LLC and Mason Street Advisors LLC, agreed to pay a $16.5 million penalty.
- Guggenheim Securities LLC, together with Guggenheim Partners Investment Management, agreed to pay a $15 million penalty.
- Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. agreed to pay a $12 million penalty.
- Cambridge Investment Research Inc., together with Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., agreed to pay a $10 million penalty.
- Key Investment Services LLC, together with KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., agreed to pay a $10 million penalty.
- Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., together with Lincoln Financial Securities Corp., agreed to pay an $8.5 million penalty.
- U.S. Bancorp Investments Inc. agreed to pay an $8 million penalty.
- The Huntington Investment Company, together with Huntington Securities Inc. and Capstone Capital Markets LLC, agreed to pay a $1.25 million penalty.
Huntington self-reported to the SEC so its penalty was the lowest, the SEC said.
The SEC's investigations uncovered pervasive and long-standing uses of unapproved communication methods, known as off-channel communications, at all 16 firms, the SEC said in an accompanying news release.
The broker-dealer firms admitted that, from at least 2019 or 2020, their employees communicated through personal text messages about the business of their employers, the SEC found. The investment adviser firms admitted that their employees sent and received off-channel communications related to recommendations made or proposed to be made and advice given or proposed to be given. The firms did not maintain or preserve the substantial majority of these off-channel communications, in violation of the federal securities laws, the SEC orders noted.
"By failing to maintain and preserve required records, some of the firms likely deprived the SEC of these off-channel communications in various SEC investigations," the SEC said. "The failures involved employees at multiple levels of authority, including supervisors and senior managers."
A spokesperson for Huntington said in an email that the firm is "pleased to have a resolution of this matter, which Huntington voluntarily self-disclosed to the SEC. Huntington remains committed to enhancing our record-keeping compliance program."
An Oppenheimer spokesperson declined comment and a Cambridge representative only acknowledged the settlement but did not comment further.
The other firms could not immediately be reached for comment.
The SEC said the firms also agreed to retain independent compliance consultants to, among other things, conduct comprehensive reviews of their policies and procedures relating to the retention of electronic communications found on personal devices and their respective frameworks for addressing non-compliance by their employees with those policies and procedures.