Corporate America has historically under-invested in the area of records retention. The following common errors reflect companies’ struggles with information management.
1. The retention schedule no longer reflects the changes to the company. Records policies must be
updated to remain current with organizational, operational and technological changes.
2. The retention schedule is not based on legal or regulatory requirements; citations do not exist to
support the retention period. The retention schedule is not based on a company’s legal requirements,
but more arbitrary factors. Records destruction may be portrayed by opposing counsels as “selective
destruction,” which can lead to serious legal damage rewards.
3. The retention period is out of date and no longer reflects the law. Laws change. Since retention
policies must be grounded in the law, a maintenance function is necessary to keep pace with legislative
and regulatory changes.
4. Formal policies and procedures do not exist or are inconsistent across departments. Records
management policies need to be clearly and consistently documented to support your company’s actions.
5. Retention schedules cover paper records but not media. Records transcend media, and it is a common
mistake to exclude electronic records.
6. No one is responsible for administering a company’s record management program. A manager should
be dedicated to managing the records and their function within a business.
7. Retention policies are not integrated into a records management system which can “report” to
companies when it’s time to destroy records. Even the most credible policy will not assure records are
consistently destroyed. A system is needed to remind businesses when records are eligible to be
8. Users are oblivious to records policies. Many companies squander their investment in records retention
programs by failing to roll out the program to users.
9. There is no effective review or audit process for approving records destruction. The old saying
“inspect what you expect” applies to records retention policies.
10. Companies freeze all destruction during litigation because they cannot identify those records
pertinent to the case. Companies that halt all regularly-scheduled destruction during litigation do so
because they have little faith that their records management system can enable them to identify the
records which are relevant to litigation.
In conclusion, a records retention policy should be viewed as a program and be championed, developed, packaged, rolled out and audited like other corporate programs. IBI