Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III, M.D., learned the hard way his first day at fictional 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, “M*A*S*H.”
“I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on,” he snobbishly intoned moments before his introduction to what Capt. Benjamin Frankin “Hawkeye” Pierce called “meatball surgery” just off the front lines in Korea, 1950-1953, which, of course, was 61 years ago.
The episode was “Fade Out, Fade In,” sixth season, 1977, which was 37 years ago.
All of which comes to mind on news that banks and other financial institutions now have “consumer compliance risk management guidance” for social media, which started — stay with me — oh, at least 15 years ago, with Blogger in 1999.
Since then, social media has become as ubiquitous as wristwatches used to be: LinkedIn, 11 years ago; Facebook, 10 years ago; YouTube, nine years ago; Twitter, eight years ago — and so many now I don't know anyone who keeps up with them all.
Clearly, the interagency Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), promulgator of the social media guidance, does “one thing at a time ... very well, and then ... move(s) on.” One wonders just how many consumers — and financial institutions — stumbled into meat grinders among the meatballs and goofballs on social media.
Not to pick on the FFIEC too much. Who knew, who could possibly have known, that social media would become what it has become?
Who knows how much harm has been done just in the sheer still-newness and ubiquity of it all? Better late — if it is late — than never.
In a nutshell, “to the extent that a financial institution uses social media to engage in lending, deposit services, or payment activities, it must comply with applicable laws and regulations as when it engages in these activities through other media,” the FFIEC said.
In other words, social media is part of “the media.”
Here are some of the laws and regs involving real estate and social media that financial institutions, and y'all, need to know about:
• Fair Housing Act.
Among other things, the act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap in the sale and rental of housing, in mortgage lending, and in appraisals of residential real estate.
Directly to the point for media, social or otherwise, the act makes it illegal to advertise “or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on” those characteristics.
“For example, if a financial institution engages in residential mortgage lending and maintains a presence on Facebook, the Equal Housing Opportunity logo must be displayed on its Facebook page, as applicable.”
• Equal Credit Opportunity Act.
Among other things, the act “prohibits creditors from making any oral or written statement, in advertising or other marketing techniques, to applicants or prospective applicants that would discourage on a prohibited basis a reasonable person from taking or pursuing an application. However, a creditor may affirmatively solicit or encourage members of traditionally disadvantaged groups to apply for credit, especially groups that might not normally seek credit from that creditor.”
Directly to the point for social media, “creditors may not, with limited exceptions, request certain information, such as information about an applicant's race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. Since social media platforms may collect such information about participants in various ways, a creditor should ensure that it is not requesting, collecting, or otherwise using such information in violation of applicable fair lending laws.”
“Particularly if the social media platform is maintained by a third party that may request or require users to provide personal information such as age and/or sex or use data mining technology to obtain such information from social media sites, the creditor should ensure that it does not itself improperly request, collect, or use such information or give the appearance of doing so.”
• Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.
Among other things, the act, known universally in the business as RESPA, prohibits certain activities in connection with federally related mortgage loans, including splitting fees, giving or accepting a fee, kickback, or anything of value in exchange for referrals of settlement services.
Directly to the point for social media, “RESPA also has specific timing requirements for certain disclosures.
These requirements apply to applications taken electronically, including via social media.”
That's the tip of the social media guidance from the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, which has members from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, National Credit Union Administration, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the State Liaison Committee — so, of course, it took awhile to put together.
Read all about it: www.ffiec.gov/press/pr121113.htm.