Say you work for a large bank that has been embroiled in a crisis or scandal. In the discovery processes of the inevitable lawsuits that follow, investigators and lawyers (and in some cases, the U.S. Senate) find all manner of incriminating emails that the bank's risk and compliance departments did not know existed.
This scenario has occurred quite a bit in the aftermath of the mortgage crisis. A few classic examples from Standard & Poor's analysts — emails they wrote as they were inflating the ratings of worthless collateralized debt obligations — were made public by Rolling Stone magazine just this summer:
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