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NEW: CUs Should Take Action To De-risk Social Media, Expert Tells ACUC
NEW YORK (7/3/13 UPDATED: 12:30 p.m. ET)--Credit unions should implement policies and procedures to protect themselves against possible liability related to their use and their employees' use of social media, said attorney Kevin Funnell of Bieging Shapiro & Barber LLP,  at a Discovery Breakout Session  during the 2013 America's Credit Union Conference today.
 
The Credit Union National Association's ACUC ends today in New York City. The Discovery session was sponsored by CUNA Mutual Group.
 
A recent survey indicated that 62% of U.S financial institutions were not using social media or had no immediate plans to use it because they were worried about compliance, Funnell said.  "Most Americans are involved in social media," Funnell said. "There are 157 million Facebook users already, and 47% of adults use social media."
 
Also, new media present risks that traditional media don't--primarily a lack of control over content and a heightened sense of risk, Funnell added. "Social media is relatively new, and there are some well-settled legal rules, but not for financial institutions," he explained. "It's an open forum and there is a world full of possible plaintiffs and the fear of the unknown."
 
Some legal risks when a financial institution markets to a member/customer through social media  include: 
  • Deceptive advertising;
  • Intellectual property infringement/plagiarism;
  • Defamation/trade libel;
  • Disclosure of trade secrets or private information; and
  • Is it a conversation or advertising?
Legal risks when an employee uses a financial institution's social media include:
  • Leaking confidential information;
  • Committing defamation;
  • Admissions against the financial institution's interest;
  • Binding the financial institution to a promise;
  • Legal and regulatory violations;
  • Inability to regulate communication; and
  • Reputational risk.
Credit unions and financial institutions need to have clear internal written policies regarding copyright infringement, defamation, trade libel, use of non-public personal information and dishonesty (deceptive trade practices). "The key is to enforce policies consistently" to avoid any legal problems regarding unfairness of their application, Funnell said.

He concluded with social media policy takeaways for financial institutions. They are:
  • Strike a balance between the specific and the general.
  • Be aware that National Labor Relations Board rules apply--even without a labor union.
  • Understand that informed managers are the key.
  • Realize the NLRB has been making aggressive interpretations (in favor of employees).
  • Review Individual policies and procedures.
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