When a Second Request investigation was initiated as part of a large and high-profile technology industry acquisition, the companies were required to produce more than 8TB of data across a wide range of digital sources. Many of these were emerging data sources for which compliance and e-discovery controls and workflows had not yet been developed. As a long-time trusted advisor to the law firm representing the client, FTI Technology was engaged to handle e-discovery for the matter and create solutions to ensure relevant documents could be identified, collected, processed, reviewed and produced from the emerging data sources in scope.
The client’s legal counsel understood that the breadth of data sources involved in the matter would present significant e-discovery challenges and insisted that given FTI Technology’s expertise across traditional e-discovery, digital forensics and defensible handling of emerging data sources, the firm be involved as the lead provider for the matter from the outset.
Because the client had previously acquired many companies, its IT environment was siloed, expansive, complicated and spanned numerous countries. It included many legacy or “shadow” systems and servers that the central IT team was unaware of, unsure of how to access, as well as platforms that had not been fully integrated into the main branch IT architecture. Additional data sources in scope included Quip, Slack, Salesforce and data from proprietary, in-house systems that were built without legal hold or e-discovery functionality. For some of the systems, the client’s internal IT teams were simply unable to support data export. In parallel, other systems were tightly controlled, with IT reluctant to provide the permissions necessary for the team to perform the collections. All these variables added significant time and effort to the process of gaining access to the data in order to collect and process it for review.
Linked content (known as “Modern Attachments” in Microsoft 365) presented another challenge. In productivity and collaboration suites, documents are often sent as dynamic links rather than traditional static attachments. This was the case in this client’s environment across multiple platforms, demonstrating widespread channel hopping and cross-platform link sharing. There were also numerous, complex instances of many-to-one associations (family relationships) between communications and a single source file, which current e-discovery tools do extract or identify. The team was faced with creating novel workarounds to reconcile linked content in chats, posts and emails to the corresponding parent documents.
Another common issue with emerging data sources that arose in this case was that regulatory production specifications have not yet shifted to align with the nuances or structure of data within modern productivity suites. The team had to educate counsel about and address the disparities between regulatory requirements to produce entire folders and the reality of back-end data and folder structure and organization. This is a significant issue that requires specialized expertise to ensure technical production requirements are met across all data sources.