One of the issues that manufacturers/distributors are paying more attention to is their document retention policies.  Things get complicated, however, when a corporation has operations outside of the United States.  It is not uncommon, for instance, for a manufacturer/distributor to store information on a computer server that is housed outside of the United States.

Records retention, and the related concepts of data privacy and security, have long been treated differently in the U.S. and Europe.  The European nations historically have had a much higher commitment to protecting both privacy and personal data than the U.S.  In contrast, the fact that a company stores its data on a server that is located in a foreign country is unlikely to excuse compliance with document requests directed at the U.S. company in a civil action or regulatory inquiry in the U.S.

As a related issue, there have been questions raised on the ability of the U.S. government to obtain information (via a warrant) that may be maintained overseas.  There is a bill in Congress that is attempting to address that issue.  As described by the National Association of Manufacturers’ Blog, Shopfloor, NAM is supporting the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act, or LEADS Act, (S. 2871), introduced by Senators Hatch (R-UT), Coons (D-DE), and Heller (R-NV).  The main thrust of the bill is that it would preclude the use of a U.S. warrant to obtain content stored on servers outside the U.S. unless the content is in the account of a “United States person.”

Manufacturers and distributors that have any communications kept overseas should monitor this bill closely to see if it is passed.  This is another example of the tension that exists between data privacy laws in the U.S. and elsewhere and companies need to be aware of these issues because a small change in document retention policies could have widescale implications.

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Photo of Jeffrey White Jeffrey White

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or…

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or family owned manufacturers. For those looking for my detailed law firm bio, click here.

I am often asked why I have focused a large part of my law practice on counseling manufacturers and distributors. As with most things in life, the answer to that question is tied back to experiences I had well before I became a lawyer. My grandfather spent over 30 years working at a steel mill (Detroit Steel Company), including several years in its maintenance department. One of my grandfather’s prime job duties was to make sure that the equipment being used was safe. In his later years, he would apply those lessons learned in every project we did together as he passed on to me his great respect and pride for the manufacturing industry.

Because of these experiences, I not only feel comfortable advising executives in a boardroom, but also can easily transition to the factory floor. My experience has involved a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, nutritional and dietary supplements, and retail and consumer products. While I have extensive experience in litigation (including product liability and class actions), I am extremely proactive about trying to keep my clients out of the courtroom if at all possible. Specifically, I have counseled manufacturers and distributors on issues such as product labeling and warranties, product recalls, workplace safety/OSHA, anti-trust, and vendor relations, among other things. I always look for the business-friendly solution to a problem that may face a manufacturer or distributor and I hope this blog will help advance those efforts.