Executives Perform Poorly at Selective E-mail Retention & Destruction

Electronic Mail Spoliation


A record retention policy is dangerous if it expects employees or executives to perform tasks – such as selective retention of e-mail – that they are unlikely to perform in practice.

Philip Morris learned how awkward a formal "print and retain" electronic mail records policy could be. The people who managed the company's records policy miscalculated how it would be observed, or forgotten, in the day-to-day life of the business.

Philip Morris and the US Department of Justice were locked in a years-long lawsuit over the business of selling cigarettes. While the lawsuit was pending, the company was required to preserve important records related to the subject matter of the case.

Philip Morris and its lawyers were suspicious of e-mail records (reasoning that executives might make informal, unguarded remarks in e-mail!), so they promulgated a two-part policy. The first part would be to delete e-mail after two months. But they knew some e-mails would be needed for the pending lawsuit with the government, Continue Reading

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