(Bloomberg) -- Banco Santander SA has removed popular messaging software including WhatsApp from smartphones issued by the company to its investment bankers in Spain, the latest sign of how banks are clamping down on staff communications.

The Spanish lender has recently told the investment banking staff at its Madrid headquarters that unauthorized messaging software needs to be deleted, people familiar with the matter said. 

While use of the software had already been banned previously, some employees kept the apps on their phones, raising the possibility they were still using them, the people said. That ultimately prompted the bank to take follow-up action, they said asking not to be named discussing private information.

“Santander has well defined protocols regarding the usage of communication channels and adheres to the specific regulatory requirements in each of the markets in which we operate, as well as industry best practice,” a spokesperson said by email. 

The campaign by Santander comes amid a wave of large regulatory fines in the US over the failure by banks to properly monitor employee communications through unauthorized messaging apps. Regulators say it is significantly harder to investigate wrongdoing when firms fail to save records. 

Gurbir Grewal, the SEC’s enforcement director, made companies’ recordkeeping lapses a priority since he took office in 2021. The total sum of penalties meted out over the issue now exceeds $2.5 billion.

The sprawling probes by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission have prompted a tougher approach among many banks globally. Some have fined or even fired staff accused of communicating on unauthorized channels. 

European banks including BNP Paribas SA, Societe Generale SA and Deutsche Bank AG are among the firms hit by the fines.

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