Much ado has been made about the role e-mail has played in N.Y. Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's investigations into fraud and anti-competitive practices in the financial services industry-most recently in his lawsuit against New York-based insurance brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan Cos."E-mail creates an electronic trail of information, and if you're Eliot Spitzer, once you get into the database and you've got the time to look at it, you can follow the clues and get all the information," says Robert H. "Skip" Myers Jr., partner in the Washington, D.C. office of law firm Morris, Manning & Martin LLP.
"As we've seen in any number of recent investigations, e-mail can be a terribly obvious form of information, which-for whatever reason-people don't seem to manage with the same scrutiny as they do their written communications."
Indeed, a lot of conversations that used to take place on the golf course are being documented through e-mail, notes Chuck Johnston, director of industry markets at Callidus Software, a San Jose, Calif.-based provider of enterprise incentive management systems. In addition, companies have clear policies and often reviews for paper communication.
"Its much easier to fire off an e-mail with an indiscreet statement," he says. "We're recording the stream of consciousness in business-and our legal community and our business leadership hasn't really understood the implications of this stuff being recorded and externalized."
The industry needs new processes and procedures about how e-mail exchanges should be handled, he adds. "Governance is going to have to be much, much tighter. That's just motherhood and apple pie in the cyber age."
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