Insider Trading: “The Circle of Friends”


The FBI continues to escalate their crackdown on Wall Street with their latest bust on hedge fund portfolio managers and analysts. This week seven friends have been charged with running a $62million insider trading scheme (see here).

The seven charged worked for five different hedge funds and investment firms and reaped nearly $62million in illegal profits on trades in Dell Inc, the prosecutors said.

This is eerily similar to the Galleon case and should not come as a surprise. There are numerous white collar crime cases where friends have been working in cahoots with one another. The Russian trader at UBS using “potato code” also springs to mind.
The fact is (and Catelas has been saying this for over 3 years now) that criminals cannot work in complete isolation. They need to work with trusted accomplices. Trust is gained through the building of relationships. And, it is unlikely that you will commit a crime with someone you do not trust, someone with which you have a tight bond, or strong relationship.
That is why at Catelas our fundamental premise is uncovering relationships. Our assumption is that a “circle of friends” committing a crime will not necessarily provide incriminating evidence in a email exchange. Sometimes people do make mistakes, but the thing that links these individuals is the communication exchanges they had (email, cell phone, SMS, IM, etc) lomg before the crime was committed. During the time these relationships were getting stronger. In fact, often we find that communications go “radio silent” leading up to the crime.
So our approach is rooted in Behavioral Science – we uncover communication patterns that mimic what behavioral science calls “shared experiences”. Its similar to going on a weekend camping outing with friends. Here a group of people participate in a shared experience (ie camping). After the weekend, this group will by definition have a stronger bond, having participated in a shared experience. Catelas has been able to apply this same approach to everyday business (and personal) communications. I cannot share the details of how we do it, but the results are astounding.
Our Relationship Analytics approach is used to first identify the people involved in or close to a particular investigation or case. These relationships leads us to critical conversations (topic or timeline related), which enables us to point the investigation, with laser focus, to the relevant people and the relevant documents.
The next time you are working a case and your question is: “Who else might be involved?”, think trusted relationships. For more information take a look at our website or contact me.
Rob.
(robert.levey@catelas.com)

“When Preservation Requests Are Wielded as Weapons” by Craig Ball


My blog today comes directly from a post Craig Ball wrote this week for LawTechNews here. When Craig puts pen to paper it is definitely worth reading. Here is an excerpt that caught my attention:-

“The rallying cry is that plaintiffs have begun to “weaponize” preservation. That is, plaintiffs are demanding preservation of electronically stored information with such breadth that corporations are settling just to avoid the cost of finding and protecting their own discoverable data.”

Craig goes on to say… Corporate counsel vilify preservation: “The plaintiffs demand that we preserve everything, and we’re spending millions doing so.” If plaintiffs’ settlement demands don’t establish the value of their claims, why should plaintiffs’ preservation demands set the bar for preservation?

He underlines his point with…  “typically, plaintiffs’ actions mirror the same fear and lack of sophistication that spur defendants to over-preserve. Uncertain where relevant evidence resides, plaintiffs demand preservation of every place it might be. Equally uncertain and irrationally afraid of the outlier jurist, defendants say “okay” when they should say “no way.”

This irrational fear is craziness. It is time to stand up and be counted. It all comes down to preserving what is reasonable and having a defensible methodology to demonstrate reasonableness.

The problem is we are dealing with unknowns – we are not certain who is involved or where the evidence might be found, so we take the cautious route of over-preserving… at Catelas we are paving the way in providing attorneys the help they need to say NO WAY! We are using technology to help attorneys present a diligent, comprehensive way to better define the scope of preservation. Invariably this means a rational (and defendable) way of saying “NO, your preservation demands are waaaayyyyy to broad…. and this is why…”

Take a look here if you are interested in learning more about how we do it.

Are you concerned about Social Media litigation?


This article by Kate Hodgkiss about avoiding Social Media Lawsuits provides some common sense advice for companies navigating the potential pitfalls of what their employees say on Facebook, Twitter et al. Another one I read was by Stacy Gulik titled “Think Before You Tweet: Risks Health Care Professionals Face With Social Media”.  She talks about the risks that Doctors (and others) face when tweeting about medical information or their profession in general. Then there was this spoliation charge of $700,000 for the destruction of Facebook pages.

Virtually every business in the world should be concerned about what their employees are tweeting about or posting on Facebook as it relates to their business. And the litigation is certainly heating up.

I used to say to my employees “don’t write in an email what you don’t want your boss to read or what you would not want to be read back to you in court”. Well the same is becoming true of social media. Companies have to deal with social media whether they like it or not – with about a billion Facebook users, I think its a fair guess to say social media is here to stay and is rapidly infusing corporate life. From the Medical Doctor who blogs about “her day in the office” to the disgruntled employee who Facebook’s a picture of his company’s “crappy working conditions”.

This is not to say that we have to come up with brand new answers to these issues. Just like when office email first arrived, employees needed training and guidance – eg “never send an email when you are angry, or sleep on it”. What is different is that the current generation of employees has been brought up in a world of “one to everyone”, instant communications. When we hit the post or publish button, it’s gone instantly. There is no permanently delete button. And the message did not just go to internal employees, it went to the world. Someone has likely read it and saved a copy of what was said, before the individual has had a chance to erase the “mistake”.

Clearly for some companies this is a bigger concern than it is for others and every company will embrace social media slightly differently. Because the root of what we do at Catelas is about people and their relationships, how people are interacting on social media is of huge interest to us. Just as it is not possible to collect and review every document in a litigation case today, the proverbial haystack has just become exponentially larger with social media. It is never going to be practical to collect and review everything posted on the social media.  But if you can quickly isolate the people involved and limit the search to only those people that are relevant, then following their social media footprints, has just become a whole lot easier. Of course good corporate policies and employee education never hurts.

How is your company or your clients handling what its employees are saying on social media?

Webinar Series – Are you spending too much on Legal Settlement Costs?


This week I am reaching out to in-house General Counsel with this simple question – are you spending too much on Legal Settlement costs?

Whether a legal matter goes to trial or settles before trial, the negotiations surrounding the scope of discovery still take place. The Catelas assertion is that the scope of discovery is invariably too broad, because we are not certain about ‘who is involved’ and ‘what actually happened’. So we over-collect. Now, even if the case does not go to trial, the Anticipated Cost of Discovery (ACD) is higher than it should be, creating an artificially high ceiling for a settlement negotiation.

Catelas is holding a webinar series over the next few weeks, starting Tues 8th November at 12pm for 40 minutes to discuss this topic in more detail. Join us by registering here.

Early Case Assessment and The Cloud


A few weeks ago I wrote about the Early Case Assessment Trap and today as I was following the goings-on at the annual ACC get-together, it reminded me of our legal industry buzz-words and how vendors constantly re-invent themselves around the latest buzz. No doubt this week “cloud” will be hot  and “ECA” will still be generating a lot of noise.

The way I see ECA being applied is that the C stands for Cost not Case. Opposing Counsels get together and agree the scope of discovery based on the anticipated cost of the “document hit count” arising out of the agreed keyword terms.

Now granted, this is an over-simplification of a complex legal process and sure ECA means many things to many people. But, what we are not seeing is good, honest work being done in the early stages of a case to truly understand things like, who is involved, what is the company risk or exposure, is their sufficient evidence, what action should we be taking?

“Early Cost/Case Assessment” can quite easily become a template for “how much is this going to cost us” and “can we settle for less”.

At Catelas, because of the “buzz-word effect” which tends to make all vendors appear equal, we have shied away from calling ourselves an Early Case Assessment solution, for this very reason. We prefer to be thought of as Early Case Intelligence, where we endeavor to answer these key questions – who is involved, what was said and what action should the company take? We are trying to provide real, upfront intelligence to the client that helps them make smart decisions about the case, going forward. At then end of the day, Counsel does not want to be surprised with a “gotcha” six months into the case. Our mission is to ensure that Counsel gets “One Step Ahead” by providing key intelligence about the case within the first couple of days.

So this year at the ACC Annual Meeting, Early Case Intelligence may not [yet] be an industry buzz-word, but watch this space…

If you want to find out more check out this preso

Internal Investigations continue to rise


The latest Fulbright & Jaworski Litigation Trends Survey is out – slightly less litigation in 2011 compared to 2010, yet the cost of litigation per company rose. However, regulatory actions and internal investigations are climbing.

The report also reveals that whistle-blowers remain a concern in the coming year stating that one-quarter of respondents anticipate an increase in the number of claims or lawsuits brought by whistle-blowers next year. This year, 22% of respondents said their organizations were subjected to whistle-blower allegations. I suspect that this percentage has been increasing steadily over the last few years, but 25% !!! That certainly registers on the “take-notice” meter.

I also listened to a TechLaw10 podcast #42 this week, where Jonathan Armstrong was talking about the many challenges of internal investigations… more regulations, businesses being more global, more value on corporate data, more employee turnover. This last one certainly resonated – the work force of today statistically averages 2.2 years per company, a far cry from our Dads’ generation when jobs were for life. Whether people today are stealing corporate secrets more than they were before is not the issue; but the chance of this happening is significantly higher simply because people move around more and it is much easier to ‘take’ secret data with you.

All put together, I sense the perfect storm brewing to corroborate this trend of increasing investigations.

So to the people who actually have to do the work and respond to this trend, my question is how are you coping? In this economy it is not simply a case of asking General Counsel for a bigger budget – more people and more technology. It’s more complicated than that. It requires putting together a well thought out “mini-business plan” – what are the key areas of focus, how do you prioritize investigations, when and how do you deploy resources (locally and internationally), what policies and processes do you have to train and educate employees, etc. And of course if additional resources are required they need to be justified via an ROI calculation. This last piece is absolutely key – coming from the sales side, believe me, sales commission are directly proportional to a customer’s ROI.

Faced with an increase in internal investigations, the key is to use technology to your advantage – at Catelas, we are all about upfront intelligence – arming you with the facts about a case as early as possible, so that you can prioritize your investigations, spending time on the important, not the trivial, one’s, collecting only the relevant data specific to that investigation and thereby saving time and cost per investigation.

If you are interested in learning more, look here.

Lawyers shouldn’t settle for too much!


We are fast approaching the turning of the fall leaves which means that turkeys are being fattened for Thanksgiving. This is kind of a continuation of my smiley faces rant in that the scope of discovery in a case is invariably “fattened up” before the unsuspecting turkey is placed in the oven.

Here’s the scoop: we know that most litigation cases settle before trial. But, in many cases we over-collect and so we use keywords to negotiate down the Anticipated Cost of Discovery (ACD).

See the problem: over-collection because we have no way of substantiating a narrower scope of discovery.  Let’s say a case might initially settle for around $250k, but then we calculate the ACD to be $3M. Guess what, opposing counsel now has a significantly higher “settlement ceiling” to work with. Counsel for both parties then confer and a settlement of say $2.5M is agreed.

In building up the scope and anticipated cost of discovery, opposing council has fattened up the turkey. In some ways Early Case Assessment has become our own worst enemy – we run a number of keyword searches and calculations to get a pretty accurate cost of anticipated discovery.

This is not the defense attorney’s fault, it is simply a consequence of the way we preserve and collect. So again, at Catelas we believe we have the answer: provide a comprehensive and defensible way to limit the scope of discovery. We are able to help counsel to preserve & collect only those custodians that are truly close to the matter. Not by keyword culling, but by actually identifying the relevant custodians.

Bottom line is … don’t get caught in the Early Case Assessment trap by settling for too much!

Is there a gaping hole in the EDRM?


Firstly, with all due respect to Mr George Socha, I am not about to poke a stick at the validity of the much hallowed ERDM. The eDiscovery business continues to be well guided by it, but…. are we missing something?

Three years ago when I entered the world of eDiscovery, which by the way was at LegalTech 2009, a term Early Case Assessment (ECA) was all the rage. As someone who had come from the world of Information Security this made a lot of sense to me. I asked a lot of questions and while ECA meant many things to different people, for the most part it was a process for ‘getting one’s ducks in a row’   (getting organized) before the humdrum of following Mr Socha’s ERDM took place.

Very soon ECA was part of every vendor’s offering. In fact vendors re-invented themselves around ECA with many variations such as “we will pre-review your data using the assigned keywords and only charge you for the culled data”. But is something wrong here?

ECA seems to have become a cost assessment or financial calculator – ie “using these keywords we will cull down 300gig to 50gig in a linear fashion so that we achieve a manageable dataset to review”. It sounds terribly mathematical to me and somewhat contrived.

My observation is that the “intelligence” of ECA has been lost. A critical component of ECA should be to help attorney’s quickly assess the case, but I mean strategically assess it, not tactically. Understand if this is a case that could seriously expose the company. Get under the hood and understand whether you need a new engine or an oil change…. before you start negotiating how much it will cost to fix!

At Catelas we use the term “Early Case Intelligence” which does just that, we get under the hood. Maybe it will catch on, but we hope it fills a gap at the start of a case that answers the strategic questions (defend or settle) rather than simply the tactical one’s.

Let me know what you think.