by Ben Worthen

Regulations: NASD Rules Cement Need to Preserve Instant Messages

Aug 15, 20032 mins

Add saving instant messages to your Sarbanes-Oxley compliance to-do list. Since the Nasdaq this summer joined the New York Stock Exchange in requiring its members to save instant messages, there’s a clear precedent for what documents need to be retained under the law. Between the software to capture the messages and the extra storage space you’ll need, you’ll end up spending more than what you already plan to spend on e-mail retention.

Sarbanes-Oxley introduces a set of policies in which public companies need to save every document relating to a potential audit. Instant messaging isn’t specified in the SEC’s implementation regulations for Sarbanes-Oxley, says SEC spokesman John Heine. “The key is the content and audience of a message,” he says. (For more about the SEC’s records retention rules for Sarbanes-Oxley, see the March 15, 2003, Washington Watch at

With such guidelines in mind, the NASD, which monitors trading on the Nasdaq, wants its members to treat instant messages just like their e-mail. “More and more members are using [them],” says Michael Shokouhi, an NASD spokesman.

Saving all these communications could end up costing companies about $3 million annually for every 10,000 employees, says David Greene, director of market solutions for compliance technology vendor Zantaz. Most of that price tag will end up being the cost of storing electronic communications at a rate of more than three terabytes per year.