TERIS Expert Offers Information Governance Tips For 2013: The Importance of Protecting Firms and Clients with a Properly Executed Document Retention Policy

According to Michael Shufeldt, JD, Regional Director of Business Development & eDiscovery Services TERIS/Phoenix, “Maintaining and acting consistently with a document retention policy is critical in today’s digital business world. In the legal realm, having a reasonable, consistent and defensible document retention policy, in conjunction with a proper litigation hold procedure can help avoid spoliation claims from opposing parties. Spoliation can lead to sanctions or even adverse judgment in a case.” (See Victor Stanley, Inc. v. Creative Pipe, Inc., 269 F.R.D. 497 (D. Md. 2010) for example). Michael Shufeldt, Information Governance Expert

A document retention policy must be:

• Documented

• Disseminated and,

• Enforced

Of course, a legal hold process needs to exist for document retention suspension for specific litigation. While most document retention policies have similarities; it is important for each company or firm to have one customized to address its own data creation, storage and industry requirements.

Goals of a policy can include:

• Retention of important documents for reference and future use;

• Deletion of documents that are no longer necessary for the proper functions of the company;

• Ensure that documents are only being stored by the custodians of the records;

• Organize important documents for efficient retrieval; and

• Ensure that company employees know what documents should be retained, the length of their retention, means of storage, and when and how they should be destroyed.

In the words of the IRS, a “document retention and destruction policy identifies the record retention responsibilities of staff, volunteers, board members, and outsiders for maintaining and documenting the storage and destruction of the organization’s documents and records.” (Source: Instructions to the Form 990 page 20).

According to the CIO.com, “The 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley regulations served as a wake-up call for CIOs to formalize document retention policies to meet compliance requirements. But regulatory demands—and the number of documents produced daily—continue to grow. So a solid document management process is a necessity.” While document retention policies are critical for every business, those businesses subject to Sarbanes must be especially diligent.

TERIS is a leading provider of information governance, ediscovery, litigation support and managed services solutions, across the United States and internationally. TERIS experts can help any business craft policies to help avoid the unnecessary troubles that come with unreasonable, unwritten or inconsistent document retention practices.

To view a copy of a sample document retention policy that was prepared by counsel at a major law firm which illustrates a general idea of what records and details might be included please contact TERIS/Phoenix.

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