One of the biggest worries of lawyers defending against employee lawsuits is the stray statement in an e-mail that can be blown up or taken out of context. We are constantly warning clients that, before they click "send", they should think about how an e-mail will look to a jury.
However, the recent acquittal of two former Bear Stearns executives accused of securities fraud provides an important lesson on the limitations of e-mail as evidence. The government’s case against the Wall Street executives relied heavily on statements they made in e-mails. It seems the strategy backfired, and the e-mail turned out not to be the holy grail the prosecutors thought it would be. According to one lawyer, the "texting, twittering, Blackberry toting jurors of today understand that an e-mail capturing a concern, doubt or momentary distress does not reflect thought over time, much less a vetted public statement, "Skilled lawyers can help pull some of the sting out of the most seemingly damning emails, it seems, by working hard to place them into a broader context."
While it is still a good idea to think twice before clicking "send", it it good to know that common sense and context is capable of overcoming a damaging e-mail statement.