Blocking Statutes and International E-Discovery
Numerous non-US jurisdictions (especially in Europe) have enacted so-called blocking statutes to restrict the export of important business records. Much of the motivation for these statutes is to prevent compliance with discovery demands in US litigation. These statutes give corporations incentive to design cross-border controls into e-mail archival systems.
Examples of blocking statutes include the following:
- France has one of the broadest statutes, Law No . 80 - 538 of July 16, 1980, Journal Officiel de la Republique Francaise, July 17, 1980, p. 1799. It generally forbids French persons from disclosing to foreign governments (such as courts) documents that are important to the sovereignty, security or fundamental economic interests of France. French courts recently fined a French lawyer €10,000 for attempting to obtain records in connection with a lawsuit in the US.
- Ontario’s Business Records Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. B.19, generally restricts divulgence of sensitive corporate financial records to foreign governments.
- The Netherlands Economic Competition Act of June 28, 1956 (amended by Act of Nov. 14, 1958, Art. 39), generally bans compliance with foreign government measures (such as lawsuits seeking documents) to regulate competition.
- United Kingdom's (UK) Protection of Trading Interests Act 1980 c 11 generally enables or requires British government to frustrate efforts by foreign governments to discover certain important business documents.
- Malaysia's blocking statute is addressed in Gucci Amer., Inc. v. Curveal Fashion, 2010 WL 808639 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 8, 2010).
Implications for Archives Email
As corporations install appliances to archive e-mail, they can evaluate whether to implement controls for compliance with local blocking statutes. As a practical matter, the controls might focus on managing efforts to retrieve large quantities of records (litigation e-discovery) rather than just a few records at a time (ordinary course of business).
The controls might include:
1. written policies to forbid violation of local law;
2. technical blocks to prevent unauthorized people or departments from accessing particular records, while granting access to those who have been authorized; and
3. alerts and audit trails to enable after-the-fact review of who accessed which records and when.
Mr. Wright teaches computer records management and investigation law at the SANS Institute.