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The Second Age of e-Discovery

The Second Age of e-Discovery

Good governance – and the law – mandate that companies invest in e-discovery solutions for tracking down messages and files in the event of a probe

Examples of the relevance of e-discovery are everywhere at the moment although - understandably, given the sensitive nature of many investigations - few users are willing to provide case studies of their experiences. To get a flavour of high-profile situations where e-discovery would be relevant, think of Intel's failure to provide critical emails demanded as part of an investigation into its business processes by US courts in an ongoing antitrust case. Or remember the patent case between network chip makers Qualcomm and Broadcom where missing emails led to Qualcomm being told to pay Broadcom's litigation fees.

Or consider the investigations into the proliferation of dot-com era "buy" ratings on internet stocks and the subsequent revelation that personal emails sent by influential analysts ran counter to those recommendations. And of course, the recent actions of Jerome Kerviel at Societe Generale will, one assumes, have led to a large investment in e-discovery services.

Having to prove, quickly, that your company is not guilty of stock manipulation, insider dealing, fraud or other forms of malfeasance will do plenty to shock businesses into action on e-discovery and all signs point to the fact that companies are doing just this. A stark indication of just how seriously companies are taking the problem came in January when a financial giant, widely reported to have been Citigroup, signed a US$70m deal with Autonomy's Zantaz subsidiary for Desktop Legal Hold, a software program that lets firms centrally control desktops and laptops by remotely enforcing policies on document and message retention.

Increasingly, say experts, large firms are investing in e-discovery ahead of any problems emerging, rather than compensating for investigations with a flurry of reactive behaviour. But even outside of enterprise hotbeds, and financial services in particular, there is plenty of scope for investigating e-discovery.

Consider the case of Iain Liddell, policy development manager at Brunel University, responsible for subject access and Freedom of Information requests that need to be dealt with in a very timely manner.

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"Our daily backups were taking 24 hours for email and file store," he says. "We have 20,000 user accounts active at any time and there is 35 to 40 per cent churn each year. The [Microsoft] Exchange storage problem was growing hundreds of thousands of messages per month and we were having to buy more and more storage each month. We're dealing with fairly sensitive information. Search was becoming difficult and it wasn't reliable."

Liddell's answer was to invest in the HP e-discovery solution and he is confident that he now has better control over the discovery process and a better understanding of best-practice procedures.

"To instil confidence that we're not in a Big Brother situation we hold meetings to tell people what we're doing," he says. "We tightly control who can perform searches and we plan to share data on how we document on the website. Our rallying cry is: 'Be open, be honest, be brave'."

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