This story was published in the Sept. 14, 2001, edition of the Lewiston Tribune.


MILWAUKEE — Most brokerage and bank records destroyed in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York also exist on electronic and taped backup systems at sites away from the scene of the tragedy, financial experts said Wednesday.

Nonetheless, the disaster points out the prudence of investors and businesses keeping their own copies of records and statements instead of only relying on financial service providers to maintain them, accountants and lawyers said.

The destruction of the World Trade Center in Tuesday’s terrorist assault wiped out major offices of several brokerage firms, such as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, and banks like Bank of America.

But the papers and documents that fell like snow amid the smoke and soot as the tower crumbled almost certainly weren’t the only versions of those records.

Banks and brokerages are required by regulators to have a recovery system in place to retrieve records if a disaster destroys them. Firms maintain copies of account documents and trades, and those records are sent via computer elsewhere or stored on tapes and physically taken to vaults or other offices.

“On a daily basis — or even more frequently, depending on the type of data that we’re talking about — that data is electronically hacked up and copies of that data are actually taken off site,” said Brian Hurdis, senior vice president and chief information officer for Metavante Corp., the financial technology and data processing subsidiary of Marshall & Ilsley Corp. “That’s pretty typical from an industry point of view.”

Leslie M. Muma, president and chief executive officer of the Brookfield. Wis., financial technology firm Fiserv Inc., said the big financial companies “are very well regulated” when it comes to having secure records and being able to reconstruct lost documentation.

“Automation, in this regard, has really made us in a lot better shape,” Muma said. “There should not be any real concern.”

Still, some advise that investors hold onto monthly statements and transaction confirmations.

“If it comes down to proving what you have in your account, there’s no better way to do it than with a hard copy of your monthly statements,” said Andrew J. Stoltmann, who represents investors in claims against brokers as a lawyer with the Chicago firm of Maddox Koeller Margett & Caruso.

The disaster in New York could cause problems and delays for clients, especially if the securities firms in the buildings were holding investor stock certificates on site or if investors soon want to transfer funds out the firms, Stoltmann said.

Accountants said individual investors and businesses need to keep copies of their records, regardless of how much they trust back-up systems and technology.

“Our advice has always been to maintain copies of documentation regarding the purchase price of securities until at least four years after you’ve disposed of those securities,” said Nick Lascari, partner in charge of tax services for the accounting firm Virchow, Krause & Co.

Dennis Breunig, a partner in the Madison, Wis., accounting firm Smith & Gesteland, said businesses should store records in a fireproof vault, have at least daily backup and off-site storage of records and consider business-interruption insurance.