Let’s be honest, shredding can be a pretty dry subject. Heck, when we’re dealing with paper, dampness is generally considered a bad thing! Bad jokes aside, we understand that there’s only so much you want to hear about the mechanics of shredding paper. So this month, we wanted to take a break from the gears of it all, and instead look at some famous scandals that involved the humble shredder.
Let’s start with an oldie but a goodie – the Enron scandal. Now, Enron got into some trouble back in 2001, achieving the title of ‘biggest audit failure’ and eventually ‘biggest bankruptcy reorganisation’ in American history. But as if their financial issues and debts weren’t enough, in 2002 the FBI raided the failed energy giants headquarters after a tip that employees were undertaking in a mass data destruction session. FBI agents found employees at Enron HQ shredding thousands of sensitive documents in a bid to hide evidence, and further investigation revealed they had been doing this for several months already. To give you some idea, the documents they were shredding included details of the off-balance sheet partnerships which Enron set up to conceal the true level of its debts, which stand at anywhere between $30bn and $40bn. Unsurprisingly, this added fuel to the fire and more charges to the list for Enron’s owners, and restraining orders had to be filed to prevent any more shredding taking place.
The Iran-Contra Affair
This was another fairly high profile case from the states that involved people desperately trying to shred incriminating documents. The Iran-Contra affair happened during the Reagan administration, when it was discovered that senior administration officials were secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran (which was subject to an arms embargo at the time). Obviously, not a great thing from any angle. What started as an effort to free 7 American hostages being held in Lebanon spiralled into a nightmare for the 12 senior administration officials who were charged over the ongoing incident. Two of those, Fawn Hall and Johnathan Scott Royster, were responsible for the destruction of the incriminating documents, and were given immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony.
Let’s end with the most recent one. Earlier this month, an inquiry was started into allegations that the Metropolitan Police have been shredding documentation they weren’t supposed to. This was after a public inquiry into undercover policing was announced in March 2015, and officers have since been accused of destroying documentation that related directly to this active inquiry. It’s a bit of a web of inquiries to be honest! What is clear is that the IPCC stated that the documents should not have been destroyed ‘without express permission.’ In fact, their spokeswoman Sarah Green added that “While the evidence indicates that a large number of documents were shredded over a period of days in May 2014, the difficult task ahead for our investigators is to determine what the documentation was, why it was destroyed, whether electronic copies were kept and who may have ordered its destruction.” At the moment this strange double enquiry is still in i’s early days, so we don’t really know what will be uncovered yet, besides a pile of shredded paper!
At Greenaway, we won’t help you destroy data as part of a scandal, but we will help you keep on top of things so that you don’t end up on the receiving end of a law suit under the Data Protection Act. Our shredding services can come to you or be installed directly into your offices, so you don’t have any excuse not to shred that sensitive documentation. For more information, get in touch with us today.