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Thompson Calls on Federal Government to Legislate

  • 24 November, 2005 14:45

<p>"Australia needs a federal approach to document retention and monitoring around electronic documents, particularly email as this is the worst offender," according to the head of AXS-One in Australia and Asia Pacific, David Thompson.</p>
<p>"With states continuing to introduce their own legislation, it will become a nightmare for national companies to operate compliantly," he said. "Similar to the IFRS legislation where Australia is in step with other international economies, Australia should have a national regulation.</p>
<p>"The Victorian Government's Document Destruction bill, which will make it a criminal offence to intentionally destroy documents to prevent evidence being used in court and the NSW Workplace Surveillance Act are both new state-based laws. These are two examples of how the states are introducing legislation that only applies to a particular state."</p>
<p>"The US has national laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or 17a-4 from the Securities Exchange Commission, which means there isn't any conflict with any state-based laws. The same principal should apply in Australia.</p>
<p>"A national approach that is also consistent with regulations that are being enacted globally, should be implemented," Thompson added.</p>
<p>With around 80 per cent of company communication now handled via email and instant messages Thompson believes it is essential that companies have an email retention policy. But the majority don't. He cautioned companies in Australia that are unintentionally destroying documents that could one day be called upon by the court.</p>
<p>Depending on the regulation or latest advisory information, these emails may have to be kept for seven years, or thirty years or more for certain HR/OH&amp;S documents.</p>
<p>"However, keeping back ups of emails isn't always the answer either," said Thompson. "If a legal discovery order arrives, you usually only have days or at the most, weeks, to deliver those documents. There wouldn't be too many companies in Australia that could produce a specific email from seven years ago in a few days if they were relying on backups.</p>
<p>"Often, the company will settle out of court because it knows the cost of finding the documents would outweigh the settlement cost. The lawyers are winning both ways.</p>
<p>"If we have national legislation on document retention and monitoring, companies will find they haven't left themselves open to possible costs of millions of dollars if they are taken to court."</p>
<p>Thompson backs up his call with these figures from the US:
* There are approximately 125 ongoing legal matters in a typical Fortune 500 company, with at least 75 per cent of them requiring e-discovery.
* US firms are expected to spend $US1.2 billion on outside e-discovery services in 2005, projected at $1.9 billion in 2006.
* 10 per cent of corporate lawyers reported their businesses settled a case rather than incur the cost of e-discovery.</p>
<p>Thompson's interest in such legislation stems from AXS-One's technology, which includes digital capture, archiving, retention management and legal discovery at minimal cost with timely access to archived emails.</p>
<p>AXS-One is a world leader in records compliance management software solutions that delivers a single platform for the compliant management of all corporate records.</p>
Tel: 1300 887 663</p>

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