Is your company still placing too much trust in its workers to decide what documents the company should or should not keep?
Did you know that courts frequently fault organizations for delegating primary responsibility to their employees for data preservation and production?
One such case from this year – Northington v. H&M International (N.D.Ill. Jan. 12, 2011) – involved a company that had no formal policy regarding the retention of company data. Into this vacuum stepped operations-level employees – including some accused by the plaintiff of harassment – who were left with the task of managing, identifying and collecting their emails. Predictably, key documents went missing and the court had little choice but to inform the jury that the company destroyed evidence.
Contrast the scenario in Northington with a company that “got” information governance. In Viramontes v. U.S. Bancorp (N.D.Ill. Jan. 27, 2011), the defendant bank defeated a sanctions motion due to its effective information governance procedures. The bank implemented a retention policy that kept emails for 90 days, after which the emails were overwritten and destroyed. The bank also promulgated a course of action whereby the retention policy would be promptly suspended on the occurrence of litigation or other triggering event. This way, email build-up could be reduced until otherwise required by law. Because the bank followed reasonable, effective and good faith procedures, it decreased a stockpile of email and was still protected from court sanctions.
As the Viramontes case shows, a company can get information governance right. By faithfully observing a reasonable records retention policy and then modifying aspects of that policy when required, a company can confidently delete superfluous data in a manner provided by law. Coupling those procedures with archiving software will only enhance the organization’s information governance. An archiving solution will help a company reduce its costs by decreasing email proliferation and by limiting the amount of potentially relevant information for possible future litigation. This will ultimately help an organization keep what it must keep – and nothing else.