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Friday, 08 April 2005 06:00

Email documents leave directors and executives exposed


Tough new international reporting standards, and broader definitions of evidence and records to include electronic documents and emails, are opening Australian executives to prosecution, according to speakers at a Sydney roundtable on e-exposure in the workplace.

Benjamin Woolley, vP sales & marketing at email and documents management specialist Redmap, speaking to an audience of 55 CIOs and corporate executives at a panel discussion held at the State Library of NSW, warned that few organisations have the processes in place to ensure important documents are not deleted or lost.

'This will leave organisations, directors and executives vulnerable when it comes time to meet reporting legislation," Woolley said. 'The worldwide trend is for governments to demand better corporate compliance, governance and risk management.  It has spurred the introduction of reporting standards such as Sarbanes-Oxley, IFRS and CLERP 9 that are driving a new generation of electronic archiving, document management and e-audit.'

Nick Abrahams, Partner at Deacons law firm, who also spoke during the session, outlined electronic record retention and email compliance obligations under Australian law.

'There are obligations to retain emails for corporate audit and compliance requirements,' said Abrahams.  'Under the Electronic Transactions Act, anything you can do in the off-line world, you can do online.  All emails are potential legal obligations or liabilities and can be used as evidence or as part of a legal discovery process.

'Depending on their content, emails can be regarded as part of an organisation's official records.  Certain records must be kept for at least five years if they relate to taxes, six years if they relate to industrial relations, and seven years if they relate to areas such as workers compensation or various sections of the Australian Corporations Act,' Abrahams said. 

Woolley also reported a huge surge in demand for new technology to meet privacy, accounting and global reporting requirements in Australia and the United States.  'Redmap is experiencing explosive growth as we provide systems that ensure email and electronic information is stored and accessible. 

'From vital records to critical business information, Redmap technology helps capture and index electronic documents to strict archival standards.  We've worked for over 10 years' in archival technology services for governments, commercial and industrial corporations worldwide, and our latest packages are one of the few to provide 'everyman' access to stringent archival systems in line with the new global requirements.'

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