Email has become an increasingly popular solution for immediate contact, as the rise of smartphones allows individuals to have constant access to the Internet. Recent financial industry scandals have brought to light a new issue – email chains are not secret. With technology further evolving each day, electronic confidences can come back and haunt the senders through theft or subpoenas even years later.
Bob Diamond, former Barclays CEO, told Reuters that he felt "physically ill" when he read emails of his traders talking about interest rate manipulation. According to the news source, that was the first that he learned of his employees working to artificially inflate the London interbank rate LIBOR.
John Bassett, a former senior official at British signals intelligence agency GCHQ discussed how email, Twitter and texting all seem like "short fuse ephemeral communications," and that many individuals don't realize the messages aren't temporary.
"Yet as soon as we push the send button, these communications take on an enduring digital permanence that means that in effect they never quite go away," Bassett said in the Reuters article.
According to the BBC, newly released emails proved that during the height of the financial crisis, Barclays was trying to manipulate Libor inter-bank rates. Along with the emails, notes discussing telephone conversations between bank officials were also brought forward and used against those involved in the situation.
In addition, the overall reputation of the institution – and others in the same industry – have also been scrutinized. As Simon Johnson, MIT professor said in a New York Times piece, the collateral damage is disastrous, as fewer individuals will be willing to trust bankers at this point. Johnson went on to ask, "Who in their right mind would buy a complex derivative product from Barclays or anyone else implicated in this growing scandal?"
While one mistake does not necessarily mean the downfall of a company, businesses should be properly prepared with a business continuity plan to ensure that all employees understand the correct protocol when dealing with electronic communications.