Business Litigation Alert: "The Danger of Emails - A Cautionary Tale for the New Year"

Martin Shkreli was a lightning rod for controversy during the time he served as the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, but it’s his actions from a previous company that are now landing him in serious legal hot water, and his own emails could be the smoking gun the government needs to prove wrongdoing. 

Shkreli is accused of running a quasi-Ponzi scheme, using money from his previous company to pay off money-losing investors in his hedge funds.  A lawyer from Kaye Scholer, LLP  is also accused of conspiring with him in the securities fraud scheme.  According to the indictment, the two might have sealed their own fate with a string of email correspondence that allegedly details the fraud.  These emails figure prominently in the indictment and include doctored versions of correspondence.  A New York Times article on the indictment can be found here.

This is just another cautionary tale of the dangers of email correspondence.  The importance of smart communication cannot be stressed enough in today’s world where every text, message, and email we send is never fully deleted, but instead is waiting to be discovered.

  1. Watch what you write.  By now we should all know there is really no way to permanently delete anything. If you don’t want anyone to read it, don’t press send.  This includes text, email, or any electronic communication. 
  2. After-the-fact alterations are a bad idea. We leave a digital footprint with every keystroke on our computers, and any changes made to electronic communications or documents can potentially be detected, no matter how savvy someone might think they are. After-the-fact alterations to an email or document, even if the original is damaging, can usually be discovered and will only make the situation worse.
  3. Bring back face to face communication.  Sometimes it is simply best to discuss things face to face, particularly if there is any concern that any aspect of the conversation could be misconstrued.  Electronic communication can often be taken completely out of context, but face to face communication allows for a greater level of understanding and clarification.

The Shkreli emails are just the latest case of electronic communications proving potentially fatal. They are often the nail in the coffin in an investigation, yet simple steps can help us avoid getting trapped in a web of communications gone wrong.

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