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Posts Tagged ‘e-discovery survey’

FOIA Matters! — 2012 Information Governance Survey Results for the Government Sector

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

At this year’s EDGE Summit in April, Symantec polled attendees about a range of government-specific information governance questions. The attendees of the event were primarily comprised of members from IT, Legal, as well as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) agents, government investigators and records managers. The main purpose of the EDGE survey was to gather attendees’ thoughts on what information governance means for their agencies, discern what actions were being taken to address Big Data challenges, and assess how far along agencies were in their information governance implementations pursuant to the recent Presidential Mandate.

As my colleague Matt Nelson’s blog recounts from the LegalTech conference earlier this year, information governance and predictive coding were among the hottest topics at the LTNY 2012 show and in the industry generally. The EDGE Summit correspondingly held sessions on those two topics, as well as delved deeper into questions that are unique to the government. For example, when asked what the top driver for implementation of an information governance plan in an agency was, three out of four respondents answered “FOIA.”

The fact that FOIA was listed as the top driver for government agencies planning to implement an information governance solution is in line with data reported by the Department of Justice (DOJ) from 2008-2011 on the number of requests received. In 2008, 605,491 FOIA requests were received. This figure grew to 644,165 in 2011. While the increase in FOIA requests is not enormous percentage-wise, what is significant is the reduction in backlogs for FOIA requests. In 2008, there was a backlog of 130,419 requests and was decreased to 83,490 by 2011. This is likely due to the implementation of newer and better technology, coupled with the fact that the current administration has made FOIA request processing a priority.

In 2009, President Obama directed agencies to adopt “a presumption in favor’” of FOIA requests for greater transparency in the government. Agencies have had pressure from the President to improve the response time to (and completeness of) FOIA requests. Washington Post reporter Ed O’Keefe wrote,

“a study by the National Security Archive at George Washington University and the Knight Foundation, found approximately 90 federal agencies are equipped to process FOIA requests, and of those 90, only slightly more than half have taken at least some steps to fulfill Obama’s goal to improve government transparency.”

Agencies are increasingly more focused on complying with FOIA and will continue to improve their IT environments with archiving, eDiscovery and other proactive records management solutions in order to increase access to data.

Not far behind FOIA requests on the list of reasons to implement an information governance plan were “lawsuits” and “internal investigations.” Fortunately, any comprehensive information governance plan will axiomatically address FOIA requests since the technology implemented to accomplish information governance inherently allows for the storage, identification, collection, review and production of data regardless of the specific purpose. The use of information governance technology will not have the same workflow or process for FOIA that an internal investigation would require, for example, but the tools required are the same.

The survey also found that the top three most important activities surrounding information governance were: email/records retention (73%), data security/privacy (73%) and data storage (72%). These concerns are being addressed modularly by agencies with technology like data classification services, archiving, and data loss prevention technologies. In-house eDiscovery tools are also important as they facilitate the redaction of personally identifiable information that must be removed in many FOIA requests.

It is clear that agencies recognize the importance of managing email/records for the purposes of FOIA and this is an area of concern in light of not only the data explosion, but because 53% of respondents reported they are responsible for classifying their own data. Respondents have connected the concept of information governance with records management and the ability to execute more effectively on FOIA requests. Manual classification is rapidly becoming obsolete as data volumes grow, and is being replaced by automated solutions in successfully deployed information governance plans.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of data from the survey was the disclosures about what was preventing governmental agencies from implementing information governance plans. The top inhibitors for the government were “budget,” “internal consensus” and “lack of internal skill sets.” Contrasted with the LegalTech Survey findings from 2012 on information governance, with respondents predominantly from the private sector, the government’s concerns and implementation timelines are slightly different. In the EDGE survey, only 16% of the government respondents reported that they have implemented an information governance solution, contrasted with the 19% of the LegalTech audience. This disparity is partly because the government lacks the budget and the proper internal committee of stakeholders to sponsor and deploy a plan, but the relatively lows numbers in both sectors indicate the nascent state of information governance.

In order for a successful information governance plan to be deployed, “it takes a village,” to quote Secretary Clinton. Without prioritizing coordination between IT, legal, records managers, security, and the other necessary departments on data management, merely having the budget only purchases the technology and does not ensure true governance. In this year’s survey, 95% of EDGE respondents were actively discussing information governance solutions. Over the next two years the percentage of agencies that will submit a solution is expected to triple from 16%-52%. With the directive on records management due this month by the National Archives Records Administration (NARA), the government agencies will have clear guidance on what the best practices are for records management, and this will aid the adoption of automated archiving and records classification workflows.

The future is bright with the initiative by the President and NARA’s anticipated directive to examine the state of technology in the government. The EDGE survey results support the forecast, provided budget can be obtained, that agencies will be in an improved state of information governance within the next two years. This will be an improvement for FOIA request compliance, efficient litigation with the government and increase their ability to effectively conduct internal investigations.

Many would have projected that the results of the survey question on what drives information governance in the government would be litigation, internal investigations, and FOIA requests respectively. And yet, FOIA has recently taken on a more important role given the Obama administration’s focus on transparency and the increased number of requests by citizens. While any one of the drivers could have facilitated updates in process and technology the government clearly needs, FOIA has positive momentum behind it and seems to be the impetus primarily driving information governance. Fortunately, archiving and eDiscovery technology, only two parts of information governance continuum, can help with all three of the aforementioned drivers with different workflows.

Later this month we will examine NARA’s directive and what the impact will be on the government’s technology environment – stay tuned.

Survey Says… Information Governance and Predictive Coding Adoption Slow, But Likely to Gain Steam as Technology Improves

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

The biggest legal technology event of the year, otherwise known as LegalTech New York, always seems to have a few common rallying cries and this year was no different.  In addition to cloud computing and social media, predictive coding and information governance were hot topics of discussion that dominated banter among vendors, speakers, and customers.  Symantec conducted a survey on the exhibit show floor to find out what attendees really thought about these two burgeoning areas and to explore what the future might hold.

Information Governance is critical, understood, and necessary – but it is not yet being adequately addressed.

Although 84% of respondents are familiar with the term information governance and 73% believe that an integrated information governance strategy is critical to reducing information risk and cost, only 19% have implemented an information governance solution.  These results beg the question, if information governance is critical, then why aren’t more organizations adopting information governance practices?

Perhaps the answer lies in the cross-functional nature of information governance and confusion about who is responsible for the organization’s information governance strategy.  For example, the survey also revealed that information governance is a concept that incorporates multiple functions across the organization, including email/records retention, data storage, data security and privacy, compliance, and eDiscovery.  Given the broad impact of information governance across the organization, it is no surprise  respondents also indicated that multiple departments within the organization – including Legal, IT, Compliance, and Records Management – have an ownership stake.

These results tend to suggest at least two things.  First, information governance is a concept that touches multiple parts of the organization.  Defining and implementing appropriate information governance policies across the organization should include an integrated strategy that involves key stakeholders within the organization.  Second, recognition that information governance is a common goal across the entire organization highlights the fact that technology must evolve to help address information governance challenges.

The days of relying too heavily on disconnected point solutions to address eDiscovery, storage, data security, and record retention concerns are limited as organizations continue to mandate internal cost cutting and data security measures.  Decreasing the number of point solutions an organization supports and improving integration between the remaining solutions is a key component of a good information governance strategy because it has the effect of driving down technology and labor costs.   Similarly, an integrated solution strategy helps streamline the backup, retrieval, and overall management of critical data, which simultaneously increases worker productivity and reduces organizational risk in areas such as eDiscovery and data loss prevention.

The trail that leads from point solutions to an integrated solution strategy is already being blazed in the eDiscovery space and this trend serves as a good information governance roadmap.  More and more enterprises faced with investigations and litigation avoid the cost and time of deploying point solutions to address legal hold, data collection, data processing, and document review in favor of a single, integrated, enterprise eDiscovery platform.  The resulting reduction in cost and risk is significant and is fueling support for even broader information governance initiatives in other areas.  These broader initiatives will still include integrated eDiscovery solutions, but the initiatives will continue to expand the integrated solution approach into other areas such as storage management, record retention, and data security technologies to name a few.

Despite mainstream familiarity, predictive coding technology has not yet seen mainstream adoption but the future looks promising.

Much like the term information governance, most respondents were familiar with predictive coding technology for electronic discovery, but the survey results indicated that adoption of the technology to date has been weak.  Specifically, the survey revealed that while 97% of respondents are familiar with the term predictive coding, only 12% have adopted predictive coding technology.  Another 19% are “currently adopting” or plan to adopt predictive coding technology, but the timeline for adoption is unclear.

When asked what challenges “held back” respondents from adopting predictive coding technology, most cited accuracy, cost, and defensibility as their primary concerns.  Concerns about “privilege/confidentiality” and difficulty understanding the technology were also cited as reasons impeding adoption.  Significantly, 70% of respondents believe that predictive coding technology would “go mainstream” if it was easier to use, more transparent, and less expensive. These findings are consistent with the observations articulated in my recent blog (2012:  Year of the Dragon and Predictive Coding – Will the eDiscovery Landscape Be Forever Changed?)

The survey results combined with the potential cost savings associated with predictive coding technology suggest that the movement toward predictive coding technology is gaining steam.  Lawyers are typically reluctant to embrace new technology that is not intuitive because it is difficult to defend a process that is difficult to understand.  The complexity and confusion surrounding today’s predictive coding technology was highlighted recently in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Group, et. al. during a recent status conference.  The case is venued in Southern District of New York Federal Court before Judge Andrew Peck and serves as further evidence that predictive coding technology is gaining steam.  Expect future proceedings in the Da Silva Moore case to further validate these survey results by revealing both the promise and complexity of current predictive coding technologies.  Similarly, expect next generation predictive coding technology to address current complexities by becoming easier to use, more transparent, and less expensive.

Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)’s Legal Trends Survey Reveals Alarming Inattention to eDiscovery Spending

Monday, December 5th, 2011

In their latest survey, entitled “E-Discovery Market Trends: A View from the Legal Department,” Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) analysts Brian Babineau and Katey Wood analyze a number of interesting statistics and provide a range of insightful conclusions.  By surveying general counsel from large, mid-market (500-999 employees) and enterprise-class organizations in North America they were able to dive into a range of eDiscovery topics, including pain points, operational expenses and prioritizations on a go-forward basis.  Some are more intuitive than others, but in either case the results serve as good calibration metrics for those who endeavor to understand the corporate eDiscovery state of the nation.

“Most corporations are not tracking e-discovery spending…” In what may be the most notable finding of this ESG report, 60% of survey respondents claim that they did not track annual eDiscovery spending in 2010.  The authors correctly note that the eDiscovery process, “which can be highly unpredictable due to its project-by-project nature to begin with, has historically been outsourced to service providers charging at variable rates and often billed back to companies via their law firms.”  Despite the significant challenges of tracking eDiscovery spending, it’s nevertheless irresponsible for organizations to keep their heads in the sand regarding such a significant operational expense.

As the old saw goes, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure,” so it’s almost inconceivable to think that so many organizations aren’t tracking such a significant expense category.  For organizations who want to create a repeatable business process, as opposed to the fire-drill chaos that is typically associated with eDiscovery, it’s vitally important to accurately capture core eDiscovery metrics.  For starters, it’s useful to understand basic collection parameters, such as of the typical numbers of key custodians, average data volumes per custodian, data expansion rates, de-duplication statistics, etc.  Once these metrics are in place, it then becomes possible to manage the process and reduce costs.

Katey went on to expound in an exclusive quote for EDD 2.0:

“E-discovery can be managed as a strategic business process with an understanding of costs, performance and outcomes. When there’s no basis for reporting or comparison, it’s pin the tail on the donkey.  Corporate litigants won’t ever know they’re getting their money’s worth if they don’t even know what they’re spending.”

“E-Discovery accuracy/efficiency isn’t being measured, in large part.” Similar to the failure to measure eDiscovery costs, a full two thirds of GCs (67%) aren’t tracking the “efficiency and/or accuracy of e-discovery document review.” Until corporate counsel can link expectations of competency/efficiency with oversight and performance metrics, outside law firms will likely avoid having their feet held to the fire.  This passive stance makes transparency and process improvement difficult at best.  Additionally, this model of having expectations for efficiency, with low or no accountability, doesn’t bode well for the quick adoption of enabling technologies like predictive coding, since the driver has to inherently be the need/desire for increased efficiency (which axiomatically equals lower law firm review bills).

“Corporate information governance and litigation readiness (especially defensible deletion) are a priority, but not yet a reality.” From an internal prioritization perspective, more than two thirds (69%) of respondents identified their desire to expire/delete data more consistently, “thereby limiting unnecessary data retention for future litigation requests.”  Savvy enterprises correctly recognized the “multi-prong threat of unregulated data retention: the large amounts of irrelevant data ultimately produced for legal review, the greater difficulty of hanging onto potentially litigious documents past their required retention periods.”

This finding is very encouraging, and it ties into the upward momentum the industry is seeing regarding information governance generally – particularly linking the reactive (right) side of the EDRM with the logically connected and proactive (left) side of the EDRM.  As a good first step it’s critical to see organizations now associating good information governance hygiene with lower costs and better eDiscovery response times.  The ESG finding also triangulates with results from the recent Information Retention and eDiscovery Survey, which found that companies having good information governance hygiene were often able to respond much faster and more successfully to an eDiscovery/investigation requests, often suffering fewer negative consequences.

The only downside to the positive information governance trend, as reported by the survey, was that,

“while there are great benefits to defensible deletion, internal initiatives for implementing it too often are stymied by difficulty in obtaining cross functional consensus and authorization, particularly as it touches so many other critical processes like regulatory compliance and legal hold.”

“Legal hold processes are still very manual.” Another similar question revealed that many companies are attempting to get their information governance house in order, but are still in the very early stages.  When asked about their  current legal hold notification and tracking process, a whopping 69% of organizations said that they are using a “manual process performed by internal staff using e-mail and spreadsheets, etc.”  And, another 6% said they either had no formal process or tracking mechanism.

Given the risks attendant to flaws in the preservation process this area is ripe for improvement.  The good news is that 54% of survey respondents are intending to improve their legal hold process, with 25% planning improvement within the next 12 months.  This is a healthy acknowledgement that there is risk, and with a modicum of investment (time, personnel, procedures, and technology) the legal hold area can be brought up to current best practices.

The ESG survey is a welcome temperature gauge into the state of corporate legal departments.  It notes, in conclusion, “with the staggering growth, diversity and dispersion of data, the pain e-discovery is currently causing large and serial litigants are only a symptom of the larger problem of unwieldy and under-developed information management affecting all businesses.”  With data insights from the ESG survey, it’s becoming clear that foundational information governance elements (like deploying auditable legal hold procedures, tracking eDiscovery spending, updating data maps, etc.) are desperately needed by the many organizations that want to turn eDiscovery into a repeatable business process.  The good news is that many of these organization have improvements in mind for the next 12 months, and the challenge will be to make sure these proactive projects maintain the same level of organizational urgency that it often present for more reactive tasks.

Fulbright’s 2011 Litigation Trends Report Predicts a Constant Litigation Pace and a Swell of Regulatory Investigations

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Fulbright & Jaworski has conducted their Litigation Trends survey for nearly the past decade and the results are always interesting since they tend to capture the mindset of inside counsel and litigators as they anticipate the upcoming year.  In their 8th Annual Litigation Trends Survey, Fulbright noted that 92% of U.S. respondents predict that litigation will either increase or stay the same in the upcoming year.  This trend bodes well for players in the litigation services and eDiscovery sectors, and confirms the counter cyclical nature of the industry.  Breaking down the perceived increases across industry verticals, the Survey noted that the biggest anticipated jumps were in the technology, financial services, healthcare and insurance sectors.  Meanwhile energy (the leading sector from the prior year) was one of the few that predicted a decrease.

Going behind the scenes, there were a number of factors that caused respondents to predict litigation increases.  First and foremost, respondents indicated that “stricter regulation was the number one reason” for the increases, particularly with insurance, financial services, health care and retail sectors.  These concerns around regulatory compliance have been increasingly keeping GCs and corporate boards awake as the governance climate continues to heat up.  This regulation driver showed a demonstrable increase with 46% of all respondents having retained outside counsel to assist with regulatory proceedings, up from 37% in the prior year.  The Survey noted that U.S. companies facing a regulatory investigation were most likely to be under pressure from the DOJ (27%), State Attorney General (24%), OSHA (18%), the EPA (16%) and U.S. Attorney (13%).  Also on the regulatory front, U.S. respondents have increasingly begun to recognize the potential jurisdictional reach of the U.K. Bribery Act, with 25% of U.S. companies stating that they have already conducted a review of existing procedures in preparation for implementation.

In addition to managing risk, most in-house counsel are keenly concerned with controlling litigation costs.  The good news here is that associated costs are predicted to be generally flat.  Yet, eDiscovery remained the largest category targeted for increased spending, with 18% of respondents making this their top priority.  Interestingly, though, large enterprises seem to have been doing a good job of getting eDiscovery expenses under control (likely by taking expensive elements of the EDRM in-house), with these expenses declining among the largest companies, from 42% last year to 24% this year.

The Survey noted that the use of cloud computing has gained speed, with 34% of all public companies using the cloud.  And yet, only 40% of those companies using cloud computing have had “to preserve and/or collect data from the cloud in connection with actual or threatened litigation, disputes or investigations.”  This number appears curiously light, and it should definitely rise during the upcoming year as the plaintiff’s bar gets more savvy about this relatively new source of responsive electronically stored information (ESI).

On the narrower eDiscovery front, the Survey honed in on newer issues like cooperation.  Here, the Survey noted that this Sedona-sponsored concept still hasn’t completely taken hold, with nearly 40% of all respondents claiming that “their company has not made the effort to be more transparent or cooperative” due to a litigation strategy of “defending on all fronts.”  This area appears particularly muddled, with one third saying their previous attempts haven’t been reciprocated and another quarter feeling that their company was already transparent.

All in all,  the 2011 Fulbright Litigation Trends Survey notes trends that appear to be largely in line with the primary drivers of (1) managing risk and (2) lowering litigation costs.  On the risk side, compliance with an increasingly complex regulatory environment is offsetting any potential lull in the litigation environment.  And, on the cost side, eDiscovery continues to be a hot button issue, particularly with the relatively new challenges associated with ESI distributed on social media, cloud computing and mobile sources.

Social Media and eDiscovery: New Kid on the Block, but the Same Story

Friday, September 30th, 2011

In the eDiscovery universe, hot trends and evolving technologies tend to capture the attention of the legal community.  Discoverable data sources have been the focus in the courtroom for quite some time, and just like the “popular kids” from high school, email has held the crown of eDiscovery darling.  Not surprisingly, the more time end-users spend in a specific medium (on Facebook, for example), the more likely data will be created – and as that data multiplies, it has the potential to become compelling in discovery.  It seems that many U.S. organizations are electing to allow social media use at work and for work, rather than blocking access.  For obvious reasons, granting this access is culturally desirable, but from an eDiscovery perspective social media use introduces new complications.  However, don’t be mystified.  There is nothing that new here.

Recently, Symantec issued the findings of its second annual Information Retention and eDiscovery Survey, which examined how enterprises are coping with the tsunami of electronically stored information.  Having lost some popularity, email came in third place (58%) to files/documents (67%) and database/application data (61%) when respondents were asked what type of documents were most commonly part of an eDiscovery request.  The new kid on the block for data sources is social media, reported by 41% of those surveyed.  Social media is in essence no different than any other data type in the eDiscovery process, it’s just the newest.  Said another way; social media is the new email.

Of course, it’s no longer news to proclaim that communications from social networking sites are discoverable.  What is newsworthy is the question of how to effectively store, manage and discover these communications which come in such varying forms, making the logistics of doing so for social media different than for traditional mediums.  Like email, social media is used by everyone (ubiquitous), is viral (fast), has mixed uses (professional and personal) and there is a lot of it (high volume).  Unlike email, social media comes in many different forms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.), is not controlled within an organization’s firewalls (custody, possession and control issues), and has more complex requirements within the information governance lifecycle (technology is needed to ingest social media into an archive).

The two main areas to examine in relation to social media use and an organization’s policies are: 1) the legal issues that apply specifically to the organization, and 2) the logistical and technical requirements for preservation and collection.  Essentially, what is the organization’s policy surrounding social media use, and how can the information be accessed if need be? Luckily, technology exists that is nimble enough to be able to ingest social media and archive it in accordance with an organization’s policy, should one exist.  Organizations that have recognized social media as the newest kid on the block have, ideally: developed a social media policy, purchased (or deployed) collection and retention technology, and instituted training for their employees.  They have also integrated social media into their information governance strategy and document retention policy. Remember, not all organizations will have to archive social media, but all should address social media with a policy and training.

Other organizations have not accepted social media as part of the evolutionary process of eDiscovery.  They proceed at their own peril – as did the organizations that did not control their email some ten years ago!

These organizations will be in crisis when they need to collect social media for litigation and will most likely have a large lesson in damage control, as well as an equally large bill.  They will be uneducated, ill-prepared and overwhelmed about how to discover social media.  Without a policy, they will have to over collect by default, which will drive up the costs for collection and possibly for downstream review.  Given that the aforementioned survey found nearly half of the respondents did not have an information retention policy in place, and of this group, only 30% were discussing how to do so, it is likely that many of these organizations do not yet have a social media policy either.

With this background in mind, organizations should evaluate which laws and regulations apply to their organization, develop a policy and train their employees on that policy.  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

For more information about how IT and Legal can manage the impact of social media on their organization and to learn how archiving social media can be accomplished, please join this webcast from Symantec.

Proactive Retention Means Effective Preservation in eDiscovery

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

It is axiomatic that the law helps those who help themselves.  Perhaps nowhere is that truism more applicable than in the context of electronic discovery.  The organization that implements an effective information governance strategy – including developing reasonable data retention policies – will likely avoid court sanctions and reduce its legal costs.  This was confirmed in a recent industry survey, which found that organizations “help themselves” when they develop information retention policies.  According to the survey, better retention practices drive dramatically better outcomes in litigation, particularly in the context of retention and preservation.

Such a finding is echoed by a recent case issued from the District of Indiana.  In Haraburda v. Arcelor Mittal U.S.A., Inc. (D. Ind. June 28, 2011), the court tied a litigant’s preservation duty to its document retention efforts.  In order to discharge its duty to reactively preserve evidence, the court reasoned that enterprises must proactively create “a ‘comprehensive’ document retention policy that will ensure that relevant documents are retained.”  Failing to implement a retention policy often results in a loss of key information.  And this, opined the court, may result in sanctions.

Such a finding is not limited to an isolated case.  Court decisions from across the United States in 2011 have found the same connection; better data retention practices yield more successful document preservation results.  For example, in the E.I. du Pont de Nemours v. Kolon Industries (E.D. Va. April 27, 2011), the plaintiff manufacturer defeated a sanctions motion due to its effective information retention procedures.   The manufacturer implemented a document retention policy that typically kept emails from former employee accounts for 60 days, after which the emails were overwritten and deleted.   Among the emails deleted pursuant to that policy were several that the defendant argued were relevant to its counter-claims.  The DuPont court declined to impose sanctions, however, since the emails in question were overwritten before the duty to preserve was triggered.  Instead, the court lauded the manufacturer’s preservation efforts, finding that it “took positive steps reasonably calculated to ensure that information . . . was preserved for litigation.”  Because the manufacturer faithfully observed its established retention policy, it reduced a stockpile of email, made relevant documents unavailable for discovery and was still protected from court sanctions.

Similarly, in Viramontes v. U.S. Bancorp (N.D.Ill. Jan. 27, 2011), the defendant bank relied on its data retention protocols to stave off a sanctions motion after deleting several years of email.  Because those emails were destroyed pursuant to a neutral retention policy before a preservation duty attached, the bank was protected from sanctions under the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(e) safe harbor for the destruction of electronic information.

The converse, of course, is also true.  Those organizations that failed to implement effective retention policies have fared poorly in discovery because they have not preserved relevant ESI.  Take the defendant, for instance, in Northington v. H & M International (N.D.Ill. Jan. 12, 2011).  The court issued an adverse inference jury instruction against that company because it spoliated significant emails and other data.  The genesis of this spoliation was the company’s failure to establish a formal document retention policy.  Instead of having a thoughtful, top-down approach, “data retention . . . was evidently handled on an ad hoc, case-by-case basis.”  The company’s failure to develop a pre-litigation information retention policy eventually led to the loss of key information and the court’s sanctions award.

These recent cases and others confirm the correlation between retention and preservation.  Simply put, proactive retention leads to better preservation in eDiscovery.  Anything less could be disastrous in litigation.

Email Isn’t eDiscovery Top Dog Any Longer, Recent Survey Finds

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Symantec today issued the findings of its second annual Information Retention and eDiscovery Survey, which examined how enterprises are coping with the tsunami of electronically stored information (ESI) that we see expanding by the minute.  Perhaps counter intuitively, the survey of legal and IT personnel at 2,000 enterprises found that email is no longer the primary source of ESI companies produced in response to eDiscovery requests.  In fact, email came in third place (58%) to files/documents (67%) and database/application data (61%).  Marking a departure from the landscape as recently as a few years ago, the survey reveals that email does not axiomatically equal eDiscovery any longer.

Some may react incredulously to these results. For instance, noted eDiscovery expert Ralph Losey continues to stress the paramount importance of email: “In the world of employment litigation it is all about email and attachments and other informal communications. That is not to say databases aren’t also sometimes important. They can be, especially in class actions. But, the focus of eDiscovery remains squarely on email.”   While it’s hard to argue with Ralph, the real takeaway should be less about the relative descent of email’s importance, and more about the ascendency of other data types (including social media), which now have an unquestioned seat at the table.

The primary ramification is that organizations need to prepare for eDiscovery and governmental inquires by casting a wider ESI net, including social media, cloud data, instant messaging and structured data systems.  Forward-thinking companies should map out where all ESI resides company-wide so that these important sources do not go unrecognized.  Once these sources of potentially responsive ESI are accounted for, the right eDiscovery tools need to be deployed so that these disparate types of ESI can be defensibly collected and processed for review in a singular, efficient and auditable environment.

The survey also found that companies which employ best practices such as implementing information retention plans, automating the enforcement of legal holds and leveraging archiving tools instead of relying on backups, fare dramatically better when it comes to responding to eDiscovery requests. Companies in the survey with good information governance hygiene were:

  • 81% more likely to have a formal retention plan in place
  • 63% more likely to automate legal holds
  • 50% more likely to use a formal archiving tool

These top-tier companies in the survey were able to respond much faster and more successfully to an eDiscovery request, often suffering fewer negative consequences:

  • 78% less likely to be sanctioned
  • 47% less likely to lead to a compromised legal position
  • 45% less likely to disclose too much information

This last bullet (disclosing too much information) has a number of negative ramifications beyond just giving the opposition more ammo than is strictly necessary.  Since much of the eDiscovery process is volume-based, particularly the eyes-on review component, every extra gigabyte of produced information costs the organization in both seen and unseen ways.  Some have estimated that it costs between $3-5 a document for manual attorney review – and at 50,000 pages to a gigabyte, these data-related expenses can really add up quickly.

On the other side of the coin, there were those companies with bad information governance hygiene.  While this isn’t terribly surprising, it is shocking to see how many entities fail to connect the dots between information governance and risk reduction.  Despite the numerous risks, the survey found nearly half of the respondents did not have an information retention plan in place, and of this group, only 30% were discussing how to do so.  Most shockingly, 14% appear to be ostriches with their heads in the sand and have no plans to implement any retention plan whatsoever.  When asked why folks weren’t taking action, respondents indicated lack of need (41%), too costly (38%), nobody has been chartered with that responsibility (27%), don’t have time (26%) and lack of expertise (21%) as top reasons.  While I get the cost issue, particularly in these tough economic times, it’s bewildering to think that so many companies feel immune from the requirements of having even a basic retention plan.

As the saying goes, “You don’t need to be a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.”  And, the winds of change are upon us.  Treating eDiscovery as a repeatable business process isn’t a Herculean task, but it is one that cannot be accomplished without good information governance hygiene and the profound recognition that email isn’t the only game in town.

For more information regarding good records management hygiene, check out this informative video blog and Contoural article.

Addressing the Regulatory and eDiscovery Challenges of Social Media

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Is your organization among those that have jumped with both feet into the world of social media?

Recent survey results confirm that social media use is on the rise for almost all organizations across the globe.  This is particularly the case in the financial services industry.  A recent industry survey confirms that nearly two-thirds of all asset managers are actively using social media for marketing purposes.

Despite its increasing popularity and ubiquity, the securities industry is experiencing growing pains with social media.  Just like other industries, financial services providers are struggling with applying notions of information governance to these non-traditional forms of communication.  Indeed, with social media becoming an increasingly important data source for both business and legal purposes, it behooves enterprises to develop an information governance strategy with respect to this data.  The best practices being followed in this regard by financial services companies should be paradigmatic for organizations across the board.

Social Media Challenges for Financial Services Companies

Many financial services companies are experiencing difficulty supervising or retaining social media communications as required by FINRA Regulatory Notice 10-06.  A landmark regulation, FINRA 10-06 was promulgated last year to protect investors from false or misleading claims made on social networking sites.  To comply with this regulation, securities firms must develop protocols that enable them to supervise and retain social media content and ensure conformity by their representatives.

It is no secret that social media communications continue to bedevil securities firms.  Indeed, 63% of surveyed asset managers reported that “regulatory recordkeeping” remains their greatest challenge with respect to social media.  And as more firms move toward social media marketing, the number of financial services companies experiencing difficulty with retention is also likely to increase.

The challenges firms are experiencing with social media are not limited to retention.  They also include the need to properly supervise social media communications.  This was acknowledged by FINRA chairman and chief executive Richard Ketchum at an industry event this past June.  Among other social media issues, Ketchum explained that firms have questioned how they can most effectively supervise their employees’ use of smart phones and tablet computers that can access company sites.  In response to these matters, FINRA just issued Regulatory Notice 11-39 to help clarify several lingering questions regarding retention and supervision.

Best Practices for Addressing the Challenges of Social Media

Given the complexity of these issues, regulated enterprises need to know what best practices can be followed to ensure compliance with pertinent FINRA and SEC regulations.  While there are perhaps many steps that could be implemented, three stand out as indispensable for firms.

The first is that firms should develop a global plan for how they will engage in social media marketing.  This initial step is particularly important for groups that are just now exploring the use of social media to communicate with investors.  Having a plan in place that maps out investor contact and communication strategy, provides for required supervision of firm representatives, and accounts for compliance with regulatory requirements is essential for securities firms.  Failing to take these steps could result in fines, suspensions or worse.

The next step involves educating and training employees regarding the firm’s social media plan.  This should include instruction regarding what content may be posted to social networking sites and the internal process for doing so.  Policies that describe the consequences for deviating from the firm’s social media plan should also be clearly delineated.  Those policies should detail the legal repercussions – civil and criminal – for both the employee and the firm for social media missteps.

Third, firms can employ technology to ensure compliance with their social media plan.  Indeed, FINRA 10-06 specifically emphasizes the importance of deploying technological “systems” to facilitate conformity with the regulation’s “Recordkeeping Responsibilities” requirement.  Those “systems” include archiving software and other technology tools.  With the right tools in place, firms can perform a cost-effective supervisory review of content to help ensure compliance with corporate policy and regulatory bodies.  Moreover, an effective “system” will implement legal holds and efficiently retrieve archived social media content in response to legal and regulatory requests.  All of this enables a company to establish the reasonableness of its retention and eDiscovery processes and demonstrate compliance with relevant SEC and FINRA regulations.

By following these steps and other best practices, financial services companies can begin to reasonably address the challenges of social media.  Knowing that those challenges are being dealt with in an effective manner will enable firms to confidently engage in social media marketing – and reap the financial benefits of doing so.