Thursday, January 06, 2005

E-mail in litigation: Delete, delete, damn e-mail!

The front page of today's Globe and Mail Report on Business is full of coverage of a high-profile lawsuit between CIBC and Genuity. The most compelling evidence in the case is a bunch of e-mails that the senders and recipients thought were private:

Globetechnology: E-mail used as weapon in court case

The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce has turned employee e-mails into a potent legal weapon in an acrimonious court battle with a team of top executives who left the bank last year to form a competing investment firm.

In a lawsuit filed in the Ontario Superior Court, CIBC alleged that six former senior executives, including its one-time vice-chairman David Kassie, improperly recruited bank employees and took confidential bank data to their new company, Genuity Capital Markets....

The revealing e-mails are a stark reminder to employees in the digital age that messages they zap into the Internet ether can come back to haunt them....

CIBC was able to tap into messages sent by BlackBerrys that the former executives apparently believed were protected by a private system of e-mail communications known as PINning, which involves personal identification numbers or PINs.

The bank's ability to read and publish the BlackBerry e-mails is expected to send chills through the legions of investment bankers and lawyers who conduct all kinds of communications through the ubiquitous portable e-mail devices.

“You mean they broke into the PIN messages, how did they do that?” gasped one Bay Street lawyer and frequent BlackBerry PIN user who declined to be identified.

The CIBC isn't saying how it accessed the BlackBerry messages, but states in its lawsuit that the executives “seemed to have believed [they] did not create any record of their e-mails on the [Bank's] central computer systems.” ...

If you don't want to see it again, don't put it in writing, don't e-mail it, and don't text it.

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