Archiving your emails can save your business a lot of time, money and risk in the event of a legal action. A lot of businesses tend to hope for the best and adopt an ‘it won’t happen to me’ type attitude.

To bring this very real threat to life, we have collated five recent case studies where abuse of email has been at the heart of internal investigation and disputes.

Would your business be able to search and collate relevant email communication in order to respond quickly to situations like these ones?

Sexual Discrimination

Sydney Morning Herald reported that senior male executives at Australia’s largest transport company were disciplined for sexually inappropriate conduct and ‘depicting a culture of sexism, bullying and harassment’ during a conference in Sydney that offended its female staff members. Photographs from the conference show at least one executive simulating sex with a toy donkey. These pictures were then circulated on the company’s internal systems.

Their HR director Lesley Staples said that following a complaint, she conducted a thorough investigation, including interviewing witnesses and requiring the review of more than 160,000 emails. How long would it take your organisation to cut through these emails?

Workplace Bullying

Moorabbin Leader reported that a city Council could face fines of up to $1 million for workplace bullying. An unnamed council officer alleges she was forced to take medication and extended stress leave due to the severity of the bullying. The council officer claims she received, abusive critical emails embarrassing her in front of other staff. These claims have been denied, asserting there is no evidence to prove these claims and the motivation was to damage their chances of re-election.

The Council employed a law firm, costing $40,000, as well as launching their own internal investigation. The council investigation has not yet managed to produce their case.

This case highlights the very high cost in both time and money (let alone the internal disruption) when involved in a case such as this requiring long detailed searches of email records, trying to produce some evidence that supported or denied the allegations against the individuals.

Corruption Allegations

It was reported that during a lawsuit between competing manufacturers Frisby Aerospace and Eaton Corporation, Eaton Corporation was accused of providing materially false and misleading statements to the judge,

Eaton was fined $1.5 million for discovery violations. Failing to provide relevant documents and damaging discovery requests showing that Eaton Corporation had illegally tried to influence DeLaughter (the judge). DeLaughter was subsequently given an 18 month prison sentence. As a result of defendants’ false and misleading statements, the Company’s stock traded at artificially inflated prices during the Class Period leading to an investor filing a lawsuit, encouraging more investors to do the same.

Libor Fixing Scandal

CNN reported that damning emails were uncovered and publicised, showing Barclays bankers making often successful attempts to manipulate global benchmarks for interest rates including Libor – a reference rate used to calculate everything from student loans to interest rates.

British banking regulators reset daily Libor rates by receiving quotes from up to up to 18 banks on what it costs them to borrow in the public markets. It was found that these quotes were manipulated by the banks, often joining forces for personally better results.

Barclays’ CEO, COO and chairman of the board have all resigned and $453 million USD was demanded as a settlement fee.

Even today, The Australian reported that UBS is close to finalising a settlement with US and British authorities, in which the giant Swiss bank is likely to pay more than $US1 billion ($950 million) to resolve allegations that it attempted to manipulate benchmark interest rates, according to people briefed on the negotiations.

BusinessWeek reported that reports of court documents filed by Canadian regulators, traders at UBS, communicating with traders at other banks using email and instant messaging, colluded on whether they wanted Libor to be set high or low on any given day.

Unfair Dismissal

Smart Company reported that a manufacturing company was forced by Fair Work Australia to reinstate three dismissed employees who were caught sending pornographic emails. The trio did not deny the allegations, but argued unfair dismissal due to the fact they were unaware of and not trained on the “Internet and email security framework policy” and email usage policies of the company.

The company argued its policy was reinforced by a login pop-up box on employees’ computer screens, and general warnings had previously been sent to staff via email about the consequences of inappropriate use, up to and including dismissal.

The Commissioner noted that none of the company’s witnesses had “any clear understanding of [the employer’s] responsibilities under their Internet and Email Security Framework Policy”, and failed to inform their employees that their email was monitored, as per the policy, thereby losing the case.

The case highlights the need for comprehensive email policy that is communicated effectively throughout the organisation. Hand-in-hand with any effective policy there must be an effective email storage and retrieval capability in the case of a dispute.

For more information on how to make sure your business is compliant with Australian regulations and to minimise the impact of an unforeseen legal battle such as these, download your FREE white paper below.