Intel may have lost some internal emails that it is required to produce in an anti-monopoly lawsuit brought by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).
Intel lawyers said that the company might have lost the emails in hearings on a case launched by AMD in 2005. The admission will once again focus the attention of corporate legal officers and IT departments on the complex issue of data retention and compliance.
AMD is alleging that Intel engaged in anti-competitive practices to bolster a monopolistic position in the PC processor market. AMD claims that Intel coerced 38 hardware manufacturers, including Dell and Sony Corp., into using only Intel processors or discontinuing use or promotion of AMD products.
The alleged threats include forcing manufacturers into exclusive relationships, or offering deep discounts or marketing subsidies in exchange for discontinuing the use of AMD products. The action covers Intel operations in North America, Asia, and Europe.
The suit was based in part on the findings of a Japanese anti-trust investigation, which found in March 2005 that Intel had abused its market position to restrain competition in Japan's microprocessor market.
In a letter to the court, one of Intel's lawyers revealed that some internal e-mails were missing, despite the company's efforts to preserve documents related to the case. "Intel is taking this matter very seriously. It very much regrets this happened," wrote Richard Horowitz, a partner at Potter, Anderson & Corroon, which represents Intel.
Horowitz blamed the possible loss of emails on human error. For instance, when Intel employees were instructed to retain emails on their hard drives, some employees did not move emails from their sent folder to the hard drives, assuming that the company's email servers would preserve them. Instead, the email servers regularly delete e-mails after a certain amount of time has passed, he said.
Other employees wrongly assumed that Intel's IT department was automatically saving their emails, while some may not have saved all of their emails, Horowitz said. In addition, Intel failed to notify hundreds of employees to retain emails related to the case, he said.
The allegedly lost emails were generated "primarily" after AMD filed suit against Intel on June 27, 2005, but earlier emails could not be ruled out as among those missing, Horowitz said.
In a related filing to the court, AMD attacked Intel's apparent failure to preserve the missing emails. "Through what appears to be a combination of gross communication failures, an ill- conceived plan of document retention and lacklustre oversight by outside counsel, Intel has apparently allowed evidence to be destroyed," AMD said, noting that Intel continued to allow emails to be deleted from its servers after the lawsuit was filed.
"Everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong," AMD said.
AMD and Intel are scheduled to discuss the document retention failures at a status meeting tomorrow (7 March).