SEC seeks complaint automation

The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking for a better and faster

way to handle the thousands of complaints it receives each year from the


The agency is searching for a commercial software program that will

scan and convert all complaints — no matter how they are sent to the SEC — into an electronic record, log and track them, and permit specific authorized

users to access them using a browser.

"We want [a complaint] in a format we can roll into the database and,

with programming, direct it to the appropriate staff person for handling,"

said John Gannon, deputy director of the SEC's Office of Investor Education

and Assistance. "The goal is to have better service for the investor. The

faster we get something into the system, the faster we can respond to a


SEC issued a request for information in April, asking companies to identify

software that might meet its requirements. The agency will proceed with

a solicitation if it finds that such software exists, according to Linda

Sudhoff, contracting officer for the SEC.

Each year, about 72,000 complaints pour into the SEC — via traditional

mail and e-mail, by fax and phone and through World Wide Web forms available

at the agency's Web site (

All the complaints go into a database, a process that requires many

complaints to be entered manually — a labor- intensive, time-consuming process,

according to Gannon.

Most complaints — 75 percent — are submitted via e-mail, and another

15 percent come in on Web-based forms. Gannon said those complaints are

handled on the same day they arrive.

The remaining 10 percent — complaints that arrive via traditional mail,

fax and phone — take the most time to process.

"Regular mail has to be opened, assigned and entered into the database.

Someone must draft a letter and then send it to the firm," Gannon said.

"That can take up to several days because a lot more hands are on that piece

of correspondence."

"I think there is some off-the-shelf software available that may have

to be customized for our use, based on what vendors have told us," Gannon



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