Category Archives: Case Law

Government Regulators Reject “Paper” Corporate Compliance Programs Lacking Actual Enforcement

By John Patzakis

Recently, US Government regulators fined Stanley Black & Decker $1.8m after its subsidiary illegally exported finished power tools and spare parts to Iran, in violation of sanctions. The Government found that the tool maker failed to “implement procedures to monitor or audit [its subsidiary] operations to ensure that its Iran-related sales did not recur.”

Notably, the employees of the subsidiary concealed their activities by creating bogus bills of lading that misidentified delivery locations and told customers to avoid writing “Iran” on business documents. This conduct underscores the importance of having a diligent internal monitoring and investigation capability that goes beyond mere review of standard transactional records in structured databases such as CRM systems. This type of conduct is best detected on employee’s laptops and other sources of unstructured data through effective internal investigations processes.Law Journal2

The Treasury Department stated the Stanley Black & Decker case “highlights the importance of U.S. companies to conduct sanctions-related due diligence both prior and subsequent to mergers and acquisitions, and to take appropriate steps to audit, monitor and verify newly acquired subsidiaries and affiliates for….compliance.”

Further to this point, the US Department of Justice Manual features a dedicated section on assessing the effectiveness of corporate compliance programs in corporate fraud prosecutions, including FCPA matters. This section is a must read for any corporate compliance professional, as it provides detailed guidance on what the USDOJ looks for in assessing whether a corporation is committed to good-faith self-policing or is merely making hollow pronouncements and going through the motions.

The USDOJ cites United States v. Potter, 463 F.3d 9 (1st Cir. 2006), which provides that a corporation cannot “avoid liability by adopting abstract rules” that forbid its agents from engaging in illegal acts, because “[e]ven a specific directive to an agent or employee or honest efforts to police such rules do not automatically free the company for the wrongful acts of agents.” Id. at 25-26. See also United States v. Hilton Hotels Corp., 467 F.2d 1000, 1007 (9th Cir. 1972) (noting that a corporation “could not gain exculpation by issuing general instructions without undertaking to enforce those instructions by means commensurate with the obvious risks”).

The USDOJ manual advises prosecutors to determine if the corporate compliance program “is adequately designed for maximum effectiveness in preventing and detecting wrongdoing by employees and whether corporate management is enforcing the program or is tacitly encouraging or pressuring employees to engage in misconduct to achieve business objectives,” and that “[p]rosecutors should therefore attempt to determine whether a corporation’s compliance program is merely a ‘paper program’ or whether it was designed, implemented, reviewed, and revised, as appropriate, in an effective manner.”

With these mandates from government regulators for actual and effective monitoring and enforcement through internal investigations, organizations need effective and operational mechanisms for doing so. In particular, any anti-fraud and internal compliance program must have the ability to search and analyze unstructured electronic data, which is where much of the evidence of fraud and other policy violations can be best detected.

To help meet the “actual enforcement” requirements of government regulators, X1 Distributed Discovery (X1DD) enables enterprises to quickly and easily search across up to thousands of distributed endpoints and data servers from a central location.  Legal and compliance teams can easily perform unified complex searches across both unstructured content and metadata, obtaining statistical insight into the data in minutes, and full results with completed collection in hours, instead of days or weeks. Built on our award-winning and patented X1 Search technology, X1DD is the first product to offer true and massively scalable distributed data discovery across an organization. X1DD replaces expensive, cumbersome and highly disruptive approaches to meet enterprise investigation, compliance, and eDiscovery requirements.

Once the legal team is satisfied with a specific search string, after sufficient iteration, the data can then be collected by X1DD by simply hitting the ‘collect’ button. The responsive data is “containerized” at each end point and automatically transmitted to either a central location, or uploaded directly to Relativity, using Relativity’s import API where all data is seamlessly ready for review. Importantly, all results are tied back to a specific custodian, with full chain of custody and preservation of all file metadata. Here is a recording of a live public demo with Relativity, showing the very fast direct upload from X1DD straight into RelativityOne.

This effort described above — from iterative, distributed search through collection and transmittal straight into Relativity from hundreds of endpoints — can be accomplished in a single day. Using manual consulting services, the same project would require several weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars in collection costs alone, not to mention significant disruption to business operations. Substantial costs associated with over-collection of data would mount as well, and could even dwarf collection costs through unnecessary attorney review time.

In addition to saving time and money, these capabilities are important demonstrate a sincere organizational commitment to compliance versus maintaining a mere “paper program.”

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, Case Study, compliance, Corporations, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, Information Governance

New York Appellate Court Allows “Data Mining” of Social Media accounts for Relevant Information

By John Patzakis

The New York Appellate Division allowed discovery into the non-public information of the social media accounts of a former professional basketball player relevant to his personal injury claims arising out of an automobile accident. In Vasquez-Santos v. Mathew 2019 NY Slip Op 00541 (January 24, 2019), the court held that the defendant may utilize the services of a “data mining” company for a widespread search of the plaintiff’s devices, email accounts, and social media.social-media-cases3

Vasquez-Santos is an extension of a large body of court decisions that allow discovery of a user’s “private” social media messages, posts and photos where that information is reasonably calculated to contain evidence material and necessary to the litigation. Private social media information can be discoverable to the extent it “contradicts or conflicts with [a] plaintiff’s alleged restrictions, disabilities, and losses, and other claims” according the Vasquez-Santos Court.

The Court found that the defendant “is entitled to discovery to….defend against plaintiff’s claims of injury,” and noted that the requested access to plaintiff’s accounts and devices “was appropriately limited in time, i.e., only those items posted or sent after the accident, and in subject matter, i.e., those items discussing or showing defendant engaging in basketball or other similar physical activities.”

Also noteworthy was the Court’s finding that while plaintiff did not take the pictures himself, that was of no import to the decision. He was “tagged,” thus allowing him access to the pictures, and thus populated his social media account.

This decision is consistent with the general rule that while social media is clearly discoverable, there must be a requisite showing of relevance before the court moves to compel full production of a litigant’s “private” social media.

This case illustrates that any solution purporting to support eDiscovery for social media must have robust public search and collection capabilities. This means more than merely one-off screen scrapes but instead an ability to search, identify and capture up to thousands of social media posts on an automated and scalable basis.

X1 Social Discovery has the ability to find an individual’s publicly available content and to collect it in an automated fashion in native format with all available metadata intact to enable systematic and scalable search, review, tagging and analysis. We heard from one major law firm that screen captures of a single public Facebook account took several hours, with the resulting images not searchable or organized into a case-centric workflow. Now with X1 Social Discovery, they are able to accomplish this full capture in seconds. This is critically important to conduct proper due diligence on a case and to better assist legal and investigative professionals to make the requisite showings for the full discovery of social media evidence in civil discovery, as in Vasquez-Santos.

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eDiscovery Collection 3.0: Much Better, Much Faster, Much Cheaper

In his recent blog post, X1 CEO Craig Carpenter discussed the inability of any software provider to solve a critical need by delivering a truly scalable eDiscovery preservation and collection solution. As Craig pointed out, in the absence of such a “holy grail” solution, eDiscovery collection remains dominated by either unsupervised custodian self-collection or manual services, driving up costs while increasing risk and disruption to business operations.

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Craig outlined how endpoint forensic imaging are still employed on a limited basis. Many companies have also tried network crawling methods with repurposed forensic tools. (A “collection 2.1” method, if you will).  While this can be feasible for a small number of custodians, network bandwidth constraints coupled with the requirement to migrate all endpoint data back to the forensic crawling tool renders the approach ineffective. For example, to search a custodian’s laptop with 10 gigabytes of email and documents, all 10 gigabytes must be copied and transmitted over the network, where it is then searched, all of which takes at least several hours per computer. So, most organizations choose to force collect all 10 gigabytes. The case of U.S. ex rel. McBride v. Halliburton Co.  272 F.R.D. 235 (2011), illustrates this specific pain point well. In McBride, Magistrate Judge John Facciola’s instructive opinion outlines Halliburton’s eDiscovery struggles to collect and process data from remote locations:

“Since the defendants employ persons overseas, this data collection may have to be shipped to the United States, or sent by network connections with finite capacity, which may require several days just to copy and transmit the data from a single custodian . . . (Halliburton) estimates that each custodian averages 15–20 gigabytes of data, and collection can take two to ten days per custodian. The data must then be processed to be rendered searchable by the review tool being used, a process that can overwhelm the computer’s capacity and require that the data be processed by batch, as opposed to all at once.”

Halliburton represented to the court that they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on eDiscovery for only a few dozen remotely located custodians. The need to force-collect the remote custodians’ entire set of data and then sort it out through the expensive eDiscovery processing phase, instead of culling, filtering and searching the data at the point of collection drove up the costs. As such, this network crawling based architecture is fundamentally flawed and cannot scale.

What is needed is the ability to gain immediate visibility into unstructured distributed data across the enterprise, through the ability to search and collect across several hundred endpoints and other unstructured data sources such as file shares, and return results within minutes instead of days or weeks. The approaches outlined above and by Craig Carpenter do not come close to meeting this requirement and in fact actually perpetuate eDiscovery pain.

Solving this collection challenge once and for all is basis for X1 Insight and Collection, which is our eDiscovery collection 3.0 solution.  X1 Insight and Collection (XIC) enables enterprises to quickly and easily search across up to thousands of distributed endpoints and data servers from a central location.  Legal and compliance teams can easily perform unified complex searches across both unstructured content and metadata, obtaining statistical insight into the data in minutes, and full results with completed collection in hours, instead of days or weeks. Built on our award-winning and patented X1 Search technology, XIC is the first product to offer true and massively scalable distributed data discovery across an organization. XIC replaces expensive, cumbersome and highly disruptive approaches to meet enterprise discovery, preservation, and collection needs.

Targeted and iterative end point search is a quantum leap in early data assessment, which is critical to legal counsel at the outset of any legal matter. However, under today’s industry standard, the legal team is typically kept in the dark for weeks, if not months, as the manual identification and collection process of distributed, unstructured data runs its expensive and inefficient course.  To illustrate the power and capabilities of XIC, imagine being able to perform multiple, detailed, Boolean keyword phrase searches with metadata filters across the targeted end points of your global enterprise. The results start returning in minutes, with granular statistical data about the responsive documents and emails associated with specific custodians or groups of custodians.

Once the legal team is satisfied with a specific search string, after sufficient iteration, the data can then be collected by XIC by simply hitting the “collect” button. The responsive data is “containerized” at each end point and automatically transmitted to either a central location, or uploaded directly to Relativity, using Relativity’s import API where all data is seamlessly ready for review. Importantly, all results are tied back to a specific custodian, with full chain of custody and preservation of all file metadata. Here is a recording of a live public demo with Relativity, showing the very fast direct upload from XIC straight into RelativityOne.

This effort described above — from iterative, distributed search through collection and transmittal straight into Relativity from hundreds of endpoints — can be accomplished in a single day. Using manual consulting services, the same project would require several weeks and hundreds of thousands of dollars in collection costs alone, not to mention significant disruption to business operations. Substantial costs associated with over-collection of data would mount as well, and could even dwarf collection costs through unnecessary attorney review time.

XIC operates on-demand where your data currently resides — on desktops, laptops, servers, or even the cloud — without disruption to business operations and without requiring extensive or complex hardware configurations. Beyond enterprise eDiscovery and investigation functionality, organizations can offer employees the award-winning X1 Search, improving productivity while maintaining compliance.

As Relativity Product Manager Barry O’Melia said in the live X1/R1 integration demo, it is something you have to see for yourself to believe. So please check out the demo here, or contact us to arrange for a private demo.

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Three Key eDiscovery Preservation Lessons from Small v. University Medical Center

Small v. University Medical Center is a recent 123-page decision focused exclusively on issues and challenges related to preservation of electronically stored information in a large enterprise. Its an important ESI preservation case with some very instructive takeaways for organizations and their counsel.  In Small, Plaintiffs brought an employment wage & hour class action against University Medical Center of Southern Nevada (UMC). Such wage & hour employment matters invariably involve intensive eDiscovery, and this case was no exception. When it became evident that UMC was struggling mightily with their ESI preservation and collection obligations, the Nevada District Court appointed a special master, who proved to be tech-savvy with a solid understanding of eDiscovery issues.Case Law

In August 2014, the special master issued a report, finding that UMC’s destruction of relevant information “shock[ed] the conscious.” Among other things, the special master recommended that the court impose a terminating sanction in favor of the class action plaintiffs. The findings of the special master included the following:

  • UMC had no policy for issuing litigation holds, and no such hold was issued for at least the first eight months of this litigation.
  • UMC executives were unaware of their preservation duties, ignoring them altogether, or at best addressing them “in a hallway in passing.”
  • Relevant ESI from laptops, desktops and local drives were not preserved until some 18 months into this litigation.
  • ESI on file servers containing policies and procedures regarding meal breaks and compensation were not preserved.
  • These issues could have been avoided using best practices and if chain-of-custody paperwork had been completed.
  • All of UMC’s multiple ESI vendors repeatedly failed to follow best practices

After several years of considering and reviewing the special master’s detailed report and recommendations, the court finally issued its final discovery order last month. The court concurred with the special master’s findings, holding that UMC and its counsel failed to take reasonable efforts to identify, preserve, collect, and produce relevant information. The court imposed monetary sanctions against UMC, including the attorney fees and costs incurred by opposing counsel. Additionally, the court ordered that should the matter proceed to trial, the jury would be instructed that “the court has found UMC failed to comply with its legal duty to preserve discoverable information… and failed to comply with a number of the court’s orders,” and that “these failures resulted in the loss or destruction of some ESI relevant to the parties’ claims and defenses and responsive to plaintiffs’ discovery requests, and that the jury may consider these findings with all other evidence in the case for whatever value it deems appropriate.” Such adverse inference instructions are invariably highly impactful if not effectively dispositive in a jury trial.

There are three key takeaways from Small:

  1. UMC’s Main Failing was Lacking an Established Process

UMC’s challenges all centered on its complete lack of an existing process to address eDiscovery preservation. UMC and their counsel could not identify the locations of potentially relevant ESI because there was no data map. ESI was not timely preserved because no litigation hold process existed. And when the collection did finally occur under the special master’s order, it was highly reactive and very haphazard because UMC had no enterprise-capable collection capability.

When an organization does not have a systematic and repeatable process in place, the risks and costs associated with eDiscovery increase exponentially. Such a failure also puts outside counsel in a very difficult situation, as reflected by this statement from the Small Court: “One of the most astonishing assertions UMC made in its objection to the special master’s R & R is that UMC did not know what to preserve. UMC and its counsel had a legal duty to figure this out. Collection and preservation of ESI is often an iterative process between the attorney and the client.”

Some commentators have focused on the need to conduct custodian questionnaires, but a good process will obviate or at least reduce your reliance on often unreliable custodians to locate potentially relevant ESI.

  1. UMC Claims of Burden Did Not Help Their Cause

UMC tried arguing that it was too burdensome and costly for them to collect ESI from hundreds of custodians, claiming that it took IT six hours to merely search the email account of a single custodian. Here at X1, I wear a couple of hats, including compliance and eDiscovery counsel. In response to a recent GDPR audit, we searched dozens of our email accounts in seconds. This capability not only dramatically reduces our costs, but also our risk by allowing us to demonstrate diligent compliance.

In the eDiscovery context, the ability to quickly pinpoint potentially responsive data enables corporate counsel to better represent their client. For instance, they are then able to intelligently negotiate keywords and overall preservation scope with opposing counsel, instead of flying blind. Also, with their eDiscovery house in order, they can focus on more strategic priorities in the case, including pressing the adversary on their discovery compliance, with the confidence that your client does not live in a glass house.

Conversely, the Small opinion documents several meet and confer meetings and discovery hearings where UMC’s counsel was clearly at a significant disadvantage, and progressively lost credibility with the court because they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

  1. Retaining Computer Forensics Consultants Late in the Game Did Not Save the Day

Eventually UMC retained forensic collection consultants several months after the duty to preserve kicked in. This reflects an old school reactive, “drag the feet” approach some organizations still take, where they try to deflect preservation obligations and then, once opposing counsel or the court force the issue, scramble and retain forensic consultants to parachute in.  In this situation it was already too late, as much the data had already been spoliated. And because of the lack of a process, including a data map, the collection efforts were disjointed and a haphazard. The opinion also reflects that this reactive fire drill resulted in significant data over-collection at significant cost to UMC.

In sum, Small v. University Medical Center is a 123 page illustration of what often happens when an organization does not have a systematic eDiscovery process in place. An effective process is established through the right people, processes and technology, such as the capabilities of the X1 Distributed Discovery platform. A complete copy of the court opinion can be accessed here: Small v. University Medical Center

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