Cohasset Associates Report

MinIO Object Storage: SEC 17a-4(f), FINRA 4511(c) and CFTC 1.31(c)-(d) Compliance Assessment

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5 | Overview of Relevant Regulatory Requirements

This section establishes the context for the regulatory requirements that are the subject of this assessment by providing an overview of the regulatory foundation for allowing electronic records to be retained on a variety of compliant electronic storage media.

5.1Overview of SEC Rule 17a-4(f) Electronic Records Storage Requirements

Recordkeeping requirements for the securities broker-dealer industry are stipulated by the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Regulations, including 17 CFR §§ 240.17a-3 and 240.17a-4. Specifically, SEC Rule 17a-4(f), when adopted on February 12, 1997, expressly allow books and records to be retained electronic storage media, subject to meeting certain conditions.

Three separate foundational documents collectively define and interpret the specific regulatory requirements that must be met for an electronic storage system to be compliant with SEC Rule 17a-4(f). These are:

  • The Rule itself, as modified over time by the SEC. These modifications to the original Rule have not affected the requirements for electronic storage media, which are the basis of this assessment. However, certain Interpretive Releases have clarified the context and meaning of certain requirements and conditions of the Rule.
  • SEC Interpretive Release No. 34-44238, Commission Guidance to Broker-Dealers on the Use of Electronic Storage Media under the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act of 2000 with Respect to Rule 17a-4(f), dated May 1, 2001 (the 2001 Interpretive Release).
  • SEC Interpretive Release No. 34-47806, Electronic Storage of Broker-Dealer Records, dated May 7, 2003 (the 2003 Interpretive Release).

In the Rule and in the two subsequent interpretative releases, the SEC authorizes the use of electronic storage media and devices to satisfy the record keeping requirements of SEC Rules 17a-3 and 17a-4, when the system delivers the prescribed functionality. Specifically, SEC Rule 17a-4(f)(1)(ii) states:

(f) The records required to be maintained and preserved pursuant to §§ 240.17a-3 and 240.17a-4 may be immediately produced or reproduced on “micrographic media” (as defined in this section) or by means of “electronic storage media” (as defined in this section) that meet the conditions set forth in this paragraph and be maintained and preserved for the required time in that form.

(1) For purposes of this section:

(ii) The term electronic storage media means any digital storage medium or system and, in the case of both paragraphs

(f)(1)(i) and (f)(1)(ii) of this section, that meets the applicable conditions set forth in this paragraph (f). [emphasis added]

The February 12, 1997, Federal Register issued the final rule allowing broker-dealers to use electronic storage media. When issuing the rule, the SEC recognized that technology evolves; and, it set forth standards that the electronic storage media must satisfy, rather than prescribing specific technology, as specified in the following excerpts:

SUMMARY: The Securities and Exchange Commission (‘‘Commission’’) is amending its broker-dealer record preservation rule to allow broker-dealers to employ, under certain conditions, electronic storage media to maintain records required to be retained. The amendments reflect a recognition of technological developments that will provide economic as well as time-saving advantages for broker-dealers by expanding the scope of recordkeeping options while at the same time continuing to require broker-dealers to maintain records in a manner that preserves their integrity. The Commission is also issuing an interpretation of its record preservation rule relating to the treatment of electronically generated communications.


II. Description of Rule Amendments

A. Scope of Permissible Electronic

Storage Media

***The Commission is adopting a rule today which, instead of specifying the type of storage technology that may be used, sets forth standards that the electronic storage media must satisfy to be considered an acceptable method of storage under Rule 17a–4. Specifically, because optical tape, CD–ROM, and certain other methods of electronic storage are available in WORM and can provide the same safeguards against data manipulation and erasure that optical disk provides, the final rule clarifies that broker-dealers may employ any electronic storage media that meets the conditions 6 set forth in the final rule6. [emphasis added]

The 2003 Interpretive Release further clarifies that implementation of rewriteable and erasable media, such as magnetic tape or magnetic disk, meets the requirements of a non-rewriteable, non-erasable recording environment, if the system delivers the prescribed functionality and appropriate integrated control codes are in place. The 2003 Interpretive Release states:

A broker-dealer would not violate the requirement in paragraph (f)(2)(ii)(A) of the rule if it used an electronic storage system that prevents the overwriting, erasing or otherwise altering of a record during its required retention period through the use of integrated hardware and software control codes. [emphasis added]

The key words within this statement are ‘integrated’ and ‘control codes’. The term ‘integrated’ means that the method used to achieve a non-rewriteable, non-erasable recording environment must be an integral part of the recording hardware and software. The term ‘control codes’ indicates the acceptability of using attribute codes (metadata), which are integral to the hardware and software of the recording process, to protect against overwriting or erasure of any records.

Examples of integrated control codes relevant to a non-rewriteable, non-erasable recording process are:

  • A retention period during which the record cannot be erased, overwritten or otherwise modified;
  • A unique record identifier that differentiates each record from all other records; and
  • The date and time of recording, which in combination with the unique identifier “serializes” the record.

The 2003 Interpretive Release specifically notes that recording processes or applications which merely mitigate the risk of overwrite or erasure (rather than prevent them), such as relying solely on access control security, will not satisfy the requirements of SEC Rule 17a-4(f).

Further, the 2003 Interpretive Release requires the storage system to be capable of retaining records beyond the SEC-established retention period, when required by a subpoena, legal hold or other similar circumstances. In Section IV. Discussion, the 2003 Interpretive Release states:

Moreover, there may be circumstances (such as receipt of a subpoena) where a broker-dealer is required to maintain records beyond the retention periods specified in Rule 17a-4 or other applicable Commission rules. Accordingly, a broker-dealer must take appropriate steps to ensure that records are not deleted during periods when the regulatory retention period has lapsed but other legal requirements mandate that the records continue to be maintained, and the broker-dealer’s storage system must allow records to be retained beyond the retentions periods specified in Commission rules. [emphasis added]

An important associated requirement of SEC Rule 17a-4(f)(2)(i) is that a member, broker or dealer electing to electronically store its records required by SEC Rules 17a-3 or 17a-4, must notify its designated examining authority at least ninety (90) days prior to employing any technology other than write-once read-many (WORM) optical media. Examining authorities are self-regulatory organizations (SROs) or designated examining authorities (DEAs) under the jurisdiction of the SEC, such as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

See Section 2, Assessment of Compliance with SEC Rule 17a-4(f), for a list of the five SEC requirements relevant to the recording and non-rewriteable, non-erasable storage of electronic records and a description of the capabilities of MinIO Object Storage related to each requirement.

5.2Overview of FINRA Rule 4511(c) Electronic Records Storage Requirements

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rule 4511(c) explicitly defers to SEC Rule 17a-4(f), by stipulating:

(c) All books and records required to be made pursuant to the FINRA rules shall be preserved in a format and media that complies with SEA [Securities Exchange Act] Rule 17a-4.

5.3Overview of CFTC Rule 1.31(c)-(d) Electronic Regulatory Records Requirements

Effective August 28, 2017, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) amended 17 CFR § 1.31 (CFTC Rule) to define principles-based requirements for organizations electing to retain electronic regulatory records. The CFTC requirements for electronic regulatory records evolved through amendments to Rule 1.31. The most substantive changes included:

  • The June 28, 1999, amendment first implemented the technical provisions regarding the use of electronic storage media for required books and records.
  • The November 2, 2012, amendment clarified the retention period for certain oral communications.
  • The August 28, 2017, amendments modernize and make technology-neutral the form and manner in which regulatory records, including electronic regulatory records, must be retained and produced.

To address the transition to electronic regulatory records, the CFTC amended and modernized its recordkeeping regulation to adopt principles-based standards that are less prescriptive. This resulted in rephrasing and modernizing the requirements previously defined in 1999, as explained in the August 28, 2017, Federal Register in III. Final Rules, D. Regulation 1.31(c): Form and Manner of Retention:

Consistent with the Commission’s emphasis on a less-prescriptive, principles-based approach, proposed § 1.31(d)(1) would rephrase the existing requirements in the form of a general standard for each records entity to retain all regulatory records in a form and manner necessary to ensure the records’ and recordkeeping systems’ authenticity and reliability. The Commission proposed to adopt § 1.31(d)(2) to set forth additional controls for records entities retaining electronic regulatory records. The Commission emphasized in the Proposal that the proposed regulatory text does not create new requirements, but rather updates the existing requirements so that they are set out in a way that appropriately reflects technological advancements and changes to recordkeeping methods since the prior amendments of § 1.31 in 1999. [emphasis added]

The definitions established in 17 CFR § 1.31(a) are paramount to applying the CFTC requirements.

Electronic regulatory records means all regulatory records other than regulatory records exclusively created and maintained by a records entity on paper.

Records entity means any person required by the Act or Commission regulations in this chapter to keep regulatory records.

Regulatory records means all books and records required to be kept by the Act or Commission regulations in this chapter, including any record of any correction or other amendment to such books and records, provided that, with respect to such books and records stored electronically, regulatory records shall also include:

(i) Any data necessary to access, search, or display any such books and records; and

(ii) All data produced and stored electronically describing how and when such books and records were created, formatted, or modified. [emphasis added]

These definitions establish that recordkeeping obligations apply to (a) all records entities, without exception, and (b) all regulatory records. Further, for electronic regulatory records, paragraphs (i) and (ii) establish an expanded definition of an electronic regulatory record to include information describing data necessary to access, search and display records, as well as information describing how and when such books and records were created, formatted, or modified.

The retention time periods for regulated records includes both time-based and event-time-based retention periods. Specifically, 17 CFR § 1.31(b)(1)-(b)(3) states:

Duration of retention. Unless specified elsewhere in the Act or Commission regulations in this chapter:

(1) A records entity shall keep regulatory records of any swap or related cash or forward transaction (as defined in § 23.200(i) of this chapter), other than regulatory records required by § 23.202(a)(1) and (b)(1)-(3) of this chapter, from the date the regulatory record was created until the termination, maturity, expiration, transfer, assignment, or novation date of the transaction and for a period of not less than five years after such date.

(2) A records entity that is required to retain oral communications, shall keep regulatory records of oral communications for a period of not less than one year from the date of such communication.

(3) A records entity shall keep each regulatory record other than the records described in paragraphs (b)(1) or (b)(2) of this section for a period of not less than five years from the date on which the record was created. [emphasis added]

For a list of the CFTC principles-based requirements and a summary assessment of MinIO Object Storage in relation to each requirement, see Section 3, Summary Assessment of Compliance with CFTC Rule 1.31(c)-(d).

  • 6 Exchange Act Release No. 38245 (Feb. 5, 1997), 62 FR 6469 (Feb. 12, 1997) (“Adopting Release”)
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