In the past, the implementation of a comprehensive document retention policy may have seemed a secondary concern at best; however, the primary importance to all companies of implementing such a policy was dramatically illustrated in 2002. That year brought the federal obstruction of justice conviction and ultimate demise of accounting firm Arthur Andersen for destruction of documents it knew were important to the SEC’s investigation of the Enron scandal. It also brought the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which significantly expanded the reach of federal obstruction statutes, increased the penalties for document destruction that hinders a federal investigation, and promulgated new record-keeping obligations. See, e.g. 18 U.S.C. 1519, 1520. Coupled with these developments are the ever-expanding obligations in connection with discovery of electronic information.

In this new legal climate, it is vital that every product design and manufacturing company take steps to implement and enforce a justifiable and uniform document retention policy that meets the company’s business needs and also permits it to satisfy its legal obligations and minimize potential liability.

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