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Reflections on information management within the legal and regulatory arena

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Parting is such tweet sorrow…

Posted by Johnny Lee on May 16, 2012

With humble apologies to The Bard for the headline, a recent story picked up by the The Wall Street Journal chronicles the dismissal of a Chief Financial Officer for his candid and extemporaneous disclosures via Twitter and Facebook.  This is yet another in a long series of headline-grabbing stories related to the perils of un-checked social media gaffes.

The tweeter in question is Gene Morphis who, until quite recently, was the CFO of Francesca’s Holdings Corp.  Through its subsidiary, Francesca’s operates a chain of retail boutiques offering apparel, jewelry, accessories, and gifts to female customers.  The company was founded in 1999, is headquartered in Houston, and has a $1 billion market capitalization.

According to the The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Morphis “maintained a publicly viewable profile on Facebook, authored a blog called ‘Morph’s View’ and maintained a Twitter account under the handle ‘theoldcfo.’  Online, he discussed everything from Christmas to college basketball, and occasionally company doings.”  It was the last point in this list that brings him to our attention.

The Journal reports that Morphis posted information related to his dealings with Francesca’s board, an investor road show, earnings calls, and other corporate interactions.  Following an internal investigation led by outside counsel, the company has stated that it terminated Morphis “for cause” and that it is “disappointed by this situation but we expect our executives to comply with all company policies.”

While this specific fact pattern is not familiar to this editor, we can perhaps expect similar examples to come.  According to a recent survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, only two in five employers have formal social-media policies.  Perhaps just as telling, of those organizations with formal policies, one in three have taken “disciplinary action” against an employee in the past year.

The take-away?  Social media technologies represent a significant source of both benefit and risk to organizations today.  Examining these benefits and risks is becoming more and more crucial, and placing these benefits and risks within the context of existing compliance frameworks is becoming the only way to proportionally manage the same.

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