Can you imagine having to turn over 20 MILLION pages of email to prosecutors? That’s what Standard & Poors had to do in a recent $5 billion lawsuit the Department of Justice brought against them.
Judging by some of the emails that are making their way into the public eye, I’m guessing that S&P doesn’t practice Value-Based Email Archiving. Take an email titled “Burning Down the House—Talking Heads,” for example, that contained a parody of the song we all know. What was intended as a joke among fellow cube-mates back in 2006 has now become key evidence in the case.
Had S&P been using Value-Based Email Archiving, the number of emails turned over likely would have been a tiny fraction of the 20 million. And, emails like the song parody likely never would have been retained.
This is but one of many examples out there that demonstrate why over-retention can lead to significantly increased cost and risk. It leads to higher costs not only from a storage standpoint, but also from the time and expense it requires to respond to e-discovery requests because larger volumes are being searched and reviewed. Likewise, over-retention also leads to the increased risk of producing information that could legally have been deleted.
With Value-Based Archiving, retention of email is based on the value of the content of each message: Is there a legal obligation to preserve? Is there a regulatory requirement to retain? Is there useful business value for the end-user? Companies are able to drastically reduce both cost and risk by archiving only the emails that have business value and eliminating the rest.
In no way do we condone unethical or illegal behavior – in fact, quite the contrary. We don’t know if S&P is guilty or innocent, or if the email was a very concerned employee releasing pressure with humor, or if he/she was laughing at their conflagrations. The result is the same. S&P has likely spent millions in storing and managing many millions of email messages that were likely unnecessarily retained. They are now likely spending many millions more in e-discovery review of those millions of messages. And those emails will be aired out in a public dispute. Value-Based Archiving would have been very, very valuable to S&P.