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Education and Government
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Case Studies

As we witness Wall Street’s financial debacles in the past few years, we can’t help but judge certain individuals as “greedy” and “lacking the fundamental moral compass”. Take the 2001’s Enron scandal as an example. Due to poor financial reporting and the use of accounting loopholes, their staff-of-executives were able to hide billions of dollars of debt from failed deals and projects. Eventually, through high-risk accounting practices, and the ignorance of such issues, the Enron stock plummeted and the company had to file for bankruptcy. Many executives were indicted for a variety of charges and sentenced to prison. Employees and shareholders lost billions in pensions and stock prices. The Enron scandal is considered the biggest audit failure in American history, but if we look a little closer at some academic institutions, we will find that they have their own set of missteps. The following are example of a few blunders:

Weill Cornell Medical College researcher, Dr. Claudia Hensche released groundbreaking work on lung cancer in 2006 through the publication of her research in the New England Journal of Medicine. A footnote in the article indicated that nearly all of the $3.6 million in funding for her research had come from The Foundation for Lung Cancer: Early Detection, Prevention, and Treatment. However, a front-page New York Times story in 2008 revealed that nearly all of the funding for the Foundation had come from The Vector Group, the parent of Liggett Group, a cigarette company. The Foundation was headed by Dr. Hensche, with a board comprised of colleagues from Weill as well as directors of the college’s board.
Professor Marianne M. Jennings et al. “All the Cash, Much of the Risk, But Too Few of the Curbs.” College and University Auditor, Spring 2009: n. page, October 17, 2013

The following is another example. Yale University agreed to pay $7.6 million to the federal government to settle allegations that researchers had engaged in grant accounting practices that should cause every institution to research its own grant practices. The first series of allegations dealt with researchers transferring unused grant funds at the end of grant periods. The federal rule is that unused funds at the end of the grant period must be returned to the government. Ah, but rules have loopholes, and Yale was accused of transferring those funds to other grants before the curtain went down.
Professor Marianne M. Jennings et al. “All the Cash, Much of the Risk, But Too Few of the Curbs.” College and University Auditor, Spring 2009: n. page, October 17, 2013

In all these cases, it is important to retain emails, attachments, and other electronic records. Archiving emails and electronic files ensures that redeeming information can be accessed from an historical record in time to acquit an educational institution of intentional wrongdoing, perhaps by locating the source of a problem, usually a staff member. Likewise, retention of electronic emails and files can prove the innocence of a staff member in the case of an investigation or lawsuit.

Archiving email and electronic files helps educational institutions prove their integrity and encourage accountability among staff members and employees. As corporate scandals have demonstrated, enforcing a retention policy amongst staff is just as important as developing the policy.

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