What are the Consequences for Deleting Emails?

In today’s work environment, we all know workers get tons of emails.  However, what many managers may not realize is that their treatment of emails (which are business records after all), may land them in trouble if they are not careful.  The main driver behind these rules is the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  In case you’re not familiar with its rules and provisions, here are some main points that make it bad to start deleting emails:

  • If you knowingly destroy emails with an intent to impede federal proceedings, you may face up to 20 years in prison
  • You must retain and store emails in way that keeps them ready for review for up to 5 years.  Violating this rule can land you in jail for up to 10 years
  • If you delete emails (or if they suspect you of doing so) with the intent to weaken those emails as evidence, you may end up in prison for 20 years

Altogether, these rules mean that your company must have a plan in place to deal with its emails, and must store and categorize those emails in a way that would allow any investigation to quickly find emails applying to a case.  Additionally, one of the unique aspects of Sarbanes-Oxley is that under its rules, corporations are assumed guilty until proven innocent – that is, unless they can prove that they store their email records correctly, the courts might assume that the company is hiding something.

There are a number of easy ways that companies can store and categorize their emails in an effective way – stay tuned to later blog posts to find out more.

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