US legislation may force companies to save all voicemail

A new amendment to the US Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, due to become law on December 30th will require companies to save and be able to produce voice mails, as evidence in court.

The new amendments make significant additions to the rules regarding electronically stored information (ESI). The current law already includes references to email, and normal data files such as Word and PowerPoint, but it will now also include voice mail in the extensive list of ESI.

With the new rules, corporations may need to create new procedures for reviewing voice mail and other audio files for both compliance and litigation purposes. This is especially true in light of the growing adoption of unified messaging systems and the new rules on e-discovery.

In the US, although there's a strong need for compliance, because of legislation like Sarbanes-Oxley companies are still not at the stage where they save everything, with most not even at the point of approaching developing policies and procedures. The legislation, if passed, is likely to impact on UK companies with US divisions or those working closely with the US government agencies.

Kenneth Rashbaum, a compliance attorney and partner at US law firm Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold said in an interview with US TechNewsWorld: "Under the federal rules amendments, judges will be increasingly vigilant about production of all forms of electronically stored information, and companies should be proactive in processes for preserving and producing voice mail and other audio files".

The legislation also seems to point to companies having to be able to retrieve ESI data at a moments notice, as US early disclosure requirements, are increasingly going to require that corporations should look for ESI as soon as litigation is reasonably anticipated. Plus the data will have to be in its raw, unedited form - so transcriptions will not be admissible.