incriminating emailWhen we were developing Timberwolf, we needed a large quantity of public emails to ingest, so we used Enron’s. Nick wrote a post a while back on the results of some of the analytics he’d run against the Enron emails using Datameer. Mostly, he looked at things like frequency-by-address and frequency-by-time, but he also did some fun text analysis. Did you know that “fiddlesticks” was the profanity of choice at Enron? It wasn’t, but you can see what was here. Anyways, that post coupled with the recent revelations regarding certain Goldman Sachs employees’ opinions of their clients and their clients’ capital got me thinking about how easily the contents of your professional email can become, to some extent, public domain, and how, given the opportunity, it can be used against you. The following six instances are but a few examples of loose lips that sunk, or almost sunk, their owners’ ships.

Incriminated: John Kiriakou, CIA When: 2012 Case: United States of America vs. John Kiriakou Backstory: Kiriakou was a CIA officer from 1990 to 2004. In 2007, he started to get a little chatty with the media. Among other things, he he disclosed the identity of one covert officer involved in the interrogation of terror, and admitted he'd lied to the Publications Review Board of the CIA in an attempt to get the approval to include classified information in his book The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA's War on Terror. Choice quote: "I laid it on thick." Sources: Reuters, Talking Points Memo

Incriminated: Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch (BOFA) When: 2012 Case: vs Goldman Sachs, vs Bank of America Backstory: was suing Goldman for naked short selling their stock, and filed a motion to unseal certain documents they felt contained information essential to proving their case. Goldman opposed the motion, but in doing so, one of their lawyers, Joe Floren, filed an unredacted version of Overstock's motion that contained, well, exactly the proof Overstock was looking for. Choice quotes:

  • Peter Melz, Merrill Pro: "Fuck the compliance area – procedures, schmecedures"
  • Thomas Tranfaglia, Merrill Pro: "We are NOT borrowing negatives… I have made that clear from the beginning. Why would we want to borrow them? We want to fail them.”
  • Unnamed GS exec: “We have to be careful not to link locates to fails [because] we have told the regulators we can’t"
  • Unnamed GS exec, in regards to Overstock in specific: "“Two months ago 107% of the floating [aka available stock] was short!”

Sources: Bloomberg, Rolling Stone

Incriminated: Google When: 2011-2012 Case: Oracle America Inc. v. Google Inc Backstory: Before Google vs Oracle went to trial, the search giant tried to prevent a certain email from engineer Tim Lindholm to Google's head of mobile Andrew Rubin from being used as evidence. Why? In it, Lindholm voices his opinion that Google should negotiate a license for Java technology—indicating, Oracle lawyer David Boies argued, that Lindholm had "specific, detailed working knowledge" of one of the patents at issue in the lawsuit.Google lost that particular battle, but won the war. Choice quote: "We've been over a bunch of these [alternatives to Java], and think they all suck… We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need." Sources: Businessweek, Computer World

Incriminated: Sarah Palin When: 2011 Backstory: Under the Freedom of Information Act, the Alaska state government made public much of its former governor's correspondence. To be honest, the majority of the emails’ contents was not exactly scandal-fodder. What they did confirm: Palin's grammar is beauty-queen polished, she enjoys a good (glowing) write-off, and she allocated some of the decision-making power to her husband. Choice quotes:

  • "Do u remember who the barber is who's going to trim my hair?"
  • "I think we're fine if we include [the electricity required to operate a tanning bed] with the w/d on the 3rd floor…On a day like today-I wish the bed was ready to go for you to use right away!!" --from Governor's House manager Erika Fagerstrom.
  • "I'm getting calls from Soldotna about the next judge appointment. Is [Redacted] on the list, I'm getting calls from folks hoping he's not selected. Let me know whats happening so I can put to rest some of the rumors." --from Todd Palin to his wife’s political aide, Ivy Frye

Source: MSNBC, The Guardian

Incriminated: Neville Thurlbeck, James Murdoch When: 2008-2011 Backstory: After private detective Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for enabling News of the World’s royal editor Clive Goodman to hack into the voicemails of three royal staffers,  his files were seized by Scotland Yard. The lawyers of Professional Football Association head Gordon Taylor, who had filed a libel suit against the paper, obtained by court order a copy of one email that shed light on just how systemic the illegal practice was at the paper. The email was sent by NotW reporter Ross Hindley to Detective Mulcaire, and includes an attachment, titled "Transcript for Neville," that contains 32 voice messages between soccer star Gordon Taylor and his girlfriend. The "Neville" in question is Neville Thurlbeck, then the paper's chief reporter. Source: The Guardian

Incriminated: Dennis Kozlowski When: 2005 Case: People of the State of New York vs. Denis Kozlowski and Mark Schwartz Backstory: The former CEO of Tyco had a penchant for dipping into the company piggybank--to the eventual tune of $150 million. After getting convicted, in 2005, of conspiracy, grand larceny, falsifying recordts, and securities theft, Kozlowski was sentenced to 8 1/3-25 years in prison and ordered to pay a $70 million fine and $134 in restitution. He’s up for parole in 2014, but his days of $6,000 shower curtains and urinating ice sculptures are probably over. Choice quote: "Something funny . . . is likely apparent if any decent accountant looks at this." --from Kozlowski's lawyer to Tyco's in-house attorney. Sources: New York, CNN