29 March 2007

DRP: Document Retention Policy...

Corporate Fraud is nothing new and seems to be going in cycles. Now we are back to the days of the real estate financing and mortgage lending wrong doing but this time it might be a larger issue than the past. When this issue gets on the docket over at the Daily Caveat, you can bet this is not going to be a trivial matter.

Atlanta-based Beazer Homes USA is facing scrutiny from the FBI over allegedly fraudulent practices in the company's mortgage lending business. Beazer, a public company, operates as a home builder in 21 states.

The bureau's report said mortgage fraud comes in two broad varieties: "fraud for profit," which is largely committed by industry insiders and involves practices such as falsely inflating property values, and "fraud for housing," which is committed by borrowers and involves actions such as acquiring a house under false pretenses.

The bureau said it is cooperating with trade associations representing mortgage bankers and the government-sponsored companies that purchase mortgages, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to raise awareness of mortgage fraud.

Whenever you have boom times, you can bet that the opportunities and the malfeasance will be higher and that the investigations won't gear up until well after the peak. Even if the situation has equalized and the market place is doing all the right things to adjust, you still need to put a light on those who are prone to bad behavior.

Operational Risk is all about internal and external fraud mitigation. The tools, cues and clues that an OPS Risk professional utilizes are all after the truth and for the future good of all impacted by these serious loss events.


A risk difficult to model is fraud. Booms tend to induce fraud, misrepresentation and scandals. To quote Bagehot again:

"The good times of too high price almost always engender much fraud."

Or the great economic historian, Charles Kindleberger:

"The propensity to swindle grows parallel with the propensity to speculate during a boom. The implosion of an asset price bubble always leads to the discovery of fraud and swindles."

And now the search begins for evidence. The evaluation of the Document Retention Policy (DRP) at Beazer Homes will no doubt be a subject of discussion today and for weeks to come. If they are like most prudent organizations who have completed their DRP and have employees educated on day one of their employment, it should be crystal clear:

Here is some sample language from a standard DRP:
Our records include virtually all of the records you produce as an ABC Corporation employee. Such records can be in electronic or paper form. Thus, items that you may not consider important, such as interoffice emails, desktop calendars and printed memoranda are records that are considered important under this policy. If you are ever uncertain as to any procedures set forth in this policy (e.g., what records to retain or destroy, when to do so, or how) it is your responsibility to seek answers from ABC Corporation’s DRP Manager.

The goals of this DRP are to:

  • Retain important documents for reference and future use;
  • Delete documents that are no longer necessary for the proper functioning of ABC Corporation;
  • Organize important documents for efficient retrieval; and
  • Ensure that you, as an ABC Corporation employee, know what documents should be retained, the length of their retention, means of storage, and when and how they should be destroyed.
Yes, a policy about destruction of documents. This is where many organizations fail to mitigate the risk of data theft or even eDiscovery of data that could become relevant in a future investigation. However, these days, everybody is saving everything and for what looks like could be a very long time.

"If a lawsuit is filed or imminent, or a legal document request has been made upon ABC Corporation, ALL RECORD DESTRUCTION MUST CEASE IMMEDIATELY.

"ABC Corporation’s DRP Manager may suspend this DRP to require that documents relating to the lawsuit or potential legal issue(s) be retained and organized. A critical understanding of this section is imperative. Should you fail to follow this protocol, you and/or ABC Corporation may be subject to fines and penalties, among other sanctions."

The phone has just got to be ringing off the hook over at Stratify!

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