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Electronic Information and Supply Chain Document Retention Policies: Practical and Strategic Considerations

ISM's 93rd Annual International Supply Management Conference

St. Louis, MO
May 2008


Jeffrey J. Mayer, Partner, Freeborn & Peters LLP

John T. Shapiro, Partner, Freeborn & Peters LLP

Electronically stored information, or ESI, is pervasive in today's business world. It has led to more efficient business operations, but it can lead to trouble if it is not managed properly. Since ESI is crucial to dispute resolution, it's imperative that supply management professionals know where their pertinent data exists so it can be located quickly and efficiently to save time, money and headaches in the even of a dispute.

In Wednesday morning's session on the subject, Freeborn and Peters LLP partners John T. Shapiro and Jeffrey J. Meyer discussed the impact of ESI and how important it is to be proactive in terms of preservation and destruction of electronic information. They recommended saving anything that could be related to an issue or project that could be subject to future litigation in any way. "If there's a possibility of dispute and you know it, it's your obligation to preserve the information," said Shapiro. Since deletion doesn't "exist" anymore, as almost anything can be recovered during e-discovery processes, it's important to be professional in all electronic communications, including IM and cell phone communications.

Other issues covered in this presentation included understanding information architecture and the challenges of developing an ESI plan that includes language used by three very different groups of people: the IT team, the lawyers and the business team (the supply management organization). Document retention policies, e-discovery sanctions updates, and some examples of recent cases when companies have faced high fees and litigation related to ESI issues rounded out the discussion.

While the task of documenting all ESI can be a daunting proposition, there are benefits for supply management to be proactive in the process. "We recommend it be in someone's job description to be responsible for ESI. It's an important issue today, and the person doing it well should be compensated for it, as well." said Mayer. "It can be an opportunity for the department to shine."

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