SEC Investigation Case Study

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To meet its need to review what it initially thought to be 20 gigabytes of potentially responsive data in a timely fashion, the Firm asked DiscoverReady to assist with the Discovery Management aspects of the Investigation.

In order to develop the plan DiscoverReady first had to learn the client’s IT infrastructure, determine how that IT infrastructure and the available data corresponded to the scope of the SEC’s request, and then plan for the ultimate production format.

In the course of this process DiscoverReady quickly learned that the 20 gigabytes of email was only part of a larger terabyte data set that had to be addressed. This material change in data volume had serious impacts on overall costs, review strategy and execution, technology selection (including in-house vs. hosted solutions), and the timeline for production.

Review Strategy &Technology Selection

When DiscoverReady was engaged, the Firm had already begun reviewing a subset of potentially relevant data and was achieving aggregate throughput of less than 1,000 documents per day. The next step for DiscoverReady was to figure out how to economically review the massive data set in a timely fashion.

The SEC had requested “all emails and documents” from the selected custodians; however, the Fund and the Firm believed the majority of records were unlikely to be related to the matter specifically under review. With this information, the DiscoverReady team created the following parameters for the review tool selection:

  • Highly scalable platform, both for rapid data processing and for local and remote reviewer access
  • Ability to quickly begin data review without the need for upfront case analysis or preexisting knowledge of the data’s content
  • Ability to assist in “finding the needle in the haystack” (for highly relevant data)
  • Provide an extremely efficient review mechanism for “shrinking the haystack” (quickly eliminating irrelevant data)
  • Native format review and production capability to meet SEC protocol
  • Substantial functionality on the “back end” to enable the DiscoverReady team to analyze the entire document population on a real-time basis, assist in the creation of review assignments and prepare daily management reports

After running tests for attorney review throughput and obtaining quotes from a number of services, we selected the Attenex ( platform for this review. We chose the Attenex platform because:

  • Concept clustering was key to quickly identify and classifying large concentrations of relevant vs. irrelevant information without knowing much about the data content
  • Attenex’s “near duplication” capabilities (enabling the review of an entire email thread in a single pass) would reduce document volumes by up to another 10% and result in a corresponding reduction in review time
  • Out tests showed that physical review speeds (not simply keyword search culling, which was not acceptable to the SEC) averaged nearly three times the rate that we achieved in side-by-side comparisons with traditional review methods
  • Attenex’s ability to review and produce in native format corresponded well with the SEC’s request for native file production
  • Most importantly, we estimated that the aggregate projected savings to the Fund from the use of the Attenex platform, coupled with the right combination of strategy and project management, would be hundreds of thousands of dollars

Apex Review

With the review tool selected, we commenced the execution of an Apex Review®, a DiscoverReady process focused on the most relevant principals, terms, timeframes and events. By concentrating first on a subset of data that was most likely to contain highly relevant information, we were able to build a framework and workflow path, prioritize among 2nd tier custodian reviews, create keyword lexicons, and isolate names and terms for privilege screens. In addition, the Apex Review enabled us to:

  • Determine average relevancy rates among the principal custodians’ emails
  • Validate final tool selection
  • Build a “soup-to-nuts” budget and timeline for the complete first-pass review
  • Most importantly, rapidly identify key documents, terms and participants—enabling the Firm to develop an informed legal strategy and assisting in the preparation for interviews with Fund witnesses


Within days of being engaged, DiscoverReady was able to set reasonable expectations on behalf of the Firm and the Fund for execution of the data review—both in terms of budgets and

timelines—and to reduce the possibility of embarrassing surprises. With Attenex and our Apex Review, we were able to rapidly review and analyze the core data set and provide the Firm with key information to set its legal strategy. Finally, by investing in upfront planning and designing a workflow and appropriate technology solution we were able to devise a strategy to save the Fund in excess of $500,000 in first-pass review costs—a cost reduction of over 50%.

E-Discovery isn’t “one size fits all,” and every project deserves its own plan and process. If you would like to learn more about the DiscoverReady ( or our first-pass review services, please contact Steve Harber at 212-699-3965 or Jim Wagner at 212-699-3966.

Author Details
Senior Vice President, Discovery Strategy & Data Privacy/Security
A recognized thought leader in e-discovery, Maureen collaborates with the company’s clients and operations teams to develop innovative information strategies for legal discovery, compliance, and sensitive data protection. She speaks and writes frequently on significant issues in e-discovery and information governance, and participates actively in the Sedona Conference Working Groups on Electronic Document Retention and Production and Data Privacy and Security. Prior to DiscoverReady, Maureen was a partner at Paul Hastings LLP, where she represented Fortune 100 companies in complex employment litigation matters.
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