Today, more than ever, companies are confronted with a broad array of electronic document issues, including data retention policies and e-discovery during litigation. Failing to comply with rules regarding such electronic data can cost millions of dollars.

For instance, in United States Securities and Exchange Commission v. Morgan Stanley & Co., Inc., No. 06 0882 (D.C., May 12, 2006), the SEC alleged that defendant failed to produce tens of thousands of emails sought by the SEC in two investigations. The court entered an 8-page consent judgment against defendant. Three of the major points in the judgment are:

  1. Defendant was ordered to pay $15,000,000
  2. Defendant was permanently enjoined from violating Section 17(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (requiring a prompt document production, including electronic documents); and
  3. For one year, Defendant, at its own cost, was ordered to hire an independent consultant (acceptable to the SEC) to review and evaluate defendant’s policies, procedures, and training in order to comply with the judgment. The independent consultant is to make recommendations which must, absent undue burden or impracticality, be adopted by Defendant.

The lesson learned is straightforward: the costs of non-compliance with rules regarding electronic data can be staggering.