After the US Department of Justice's (DOJ's) heavy use of email correspondence in its antitrust case against Microsoft, you'd think that companies would have scrambled to ensure that their own email policies were in order. Not so, according to an American Management Association (AMA) survey of 435 employers. The AMA found that only 35.4 percent have document retention and deletion policies and that 39.3 percent allow employees full and unrestricted use of office email systems. Graph 3 shows these and other survey findings.

Companies' haphazard approach to managing old email messages could lead to significant liabilities. After all, US courts have ordered companies to produce old email messages as evidence in sexual harassment, discrimination, and other cases. And you can't change your email retention and deletion policies after email messages are requested in a lawsuit.