Document Retention and Destruction Policy

Article I: Purpose

The purposes of this document retention policy are for the Friends of MontanaPBS (the “organization”) to enhance compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and to promote the proper treatment of corporate records of the organization. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 applies to nonprofits: specifically, the imposition of criminal liability on exempt organizations that destroy records with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation. The Friends of MontanaPBS mandates document retention and periodic destruction to eliminate accidental or innocent destruction. In addition, it is important for officers, directors, volunteers and employees to know the length of time records should be retained to be in compliance. 

Article II: Policy

Section 1.  General Guidelines. Records should not be kept if they are no longer needed for the operation of the organization or required by law. Unnecessary records should be eliminated from the files. The cost of maintaining records is an expense which can grow unreasonably if good housekeeping is not performed. A mass of records also makes it more difficult to find pertinent records. From time to time, the organization may establish retention or destruction policies or schedules for specific categories of records in order to ensure legal compliance, and also to accomplish other objectives, such as preserving intellectual property and cost management. Several categories of documents that warrant special consideration are identified below. While minimum retention periods are established, the retention of the documents identified below and of documents not included in the identified categories should be determined primarily by the application of the general guidelines affecting document retention, as well as the exception for litigation relevant documents and any other pertinent factors.

Section 2.  Exception for Litigation Relevant Documents. The organization expects all officers, directors, volunteers and employees to comply fully with any published records retention or destruction policies and schedules, provided that all officers, directors and employees should note the following general exception to any stated destruction schedule: If you believe, or the organization informs you, that organization records are relevant to litigation, or potential litigation (i.e., a dispute that could result in litigation), then you must preserve those records until it is determined that the records are no longer needed. That exception supersedes any previously or subsequently established destruction schedule for those records.

Section 3.  Minimum Retention Periods for Specific Categories.

  1. Organizational Documents. Organizational records include the organization’s articles of incorporation, bylaws and IRS Form 1023, Application for Exemption. Organizational records should be retained permanently. IRS regulations require that the Form 1023 be available for public inspection upon request.
  2. Tax Records. Tax records include, but may not be limited to, documents concerning payroll, expenses, proof of contributions made by donors, accounting procedures and other documents concerning the organization’s revenues. Tax records should be retained for at least seven years from the date of filing the applicable return.
  3. Employment Records/Personnel Records. State and federal statutes require the organization to keep certain recruitment, employment and personnel information. The organization should also keep personnel files that reflect performance reviews and any complaints brought against the organization or individual employees under applicable state and federal statutes. The organization should also keep in the employee's personnel file all final memoranda and correspondence reflecting performance reviews and actions taken by or against personnel. Employment applications should be retained for three years. Retirement and pension records should be kept permanently. Other employment and personnel records should be retained for seven years.
  4. Board and Board Committee Materials. Meeting minutes should be retained in perpetuity in the organization’s minute book. A clean copy of all other Board and Board Committee materials should be kept for no less than three years by the organization.
  5. Press Releases/Public Filings. The organization should retain permanent copies of all press releases and publicly filed documents under the theory that the organization should have its own copy to test the accuracy of any document a member of the public can theoretically produce against the organization.
  6. Legal Files. Legal counsel should be consulted to determine the retention period of particular documents, but legal documents should generally be maintained for a period of ten (10) years.
  7. Marketing and Sales Documents. The organization should keep final copies of marketing and sales documents for the same period of time it keeps other corporate files, generally three years. An exception to the three-year policy may be sales invoices, contracts, leases, licenses and other legal documentation. These documents should be kept for at least three years beyond the life of the agreement.
  8. Development/Intellectual Property and Trade Secrets. Development documents are often subject to intellectual property protection in their final form (e.g. patents and copyrights). The documents detailing the development process are often also of value to the organization and are protected as a trade secret where the organization:
    1. Derives independent economic value from the secrecy of the information; and
    2. Has taken affirmative steps to keep the information confidential.
  9. The organization should keep all documents designated as containing trade secret information for at least the life of the trade secret.
    1. Contracts. Final, execution copies of all contracts entered into by the organization should be retained. The organization should retain copies of the final contracts for at least three years beyond the life of the agreement, and longer in the case of publicly filed contracts.
    2. Correspondence. Unless correspondence falls under another category listed elsewhere in this policy, correspondence should generally be saved for two years.
    3. Banking and Accounting. Accounts payable ledgers and schedules should be kept for seven years. Bank reconciliations, bank statements, deposit slips and checks (unless for important payments and purchases) should be kept for three years. Any inventories of products, materials and supplies and any invoices should be kept for seven years.
    4. Insurance. Expired insurance policies, insurance records, accident reports, claims, etc., should be kept permanently.
    5. Audit Records. External audit reports should be kept permanently. Internal audit reports should be kept for three years.

Section 4.  Electronic Mail.

Email that needs to be saved should be either:

  1. Printed in hard copy and kept in the appropriate file; or
  2. Downloaded to a computer file and kept electronically or on disk as a separate file.
  3. The amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure concerning the discovery of “electronically stored information” went into effect on December 1, 2006. The amended rule FRCP 26 (a)(1) provides that all corporate records, including those at a Board member’s place of business or residence or on the director’s personal computer, cell phone or PDA are subject to a document discovery request in the event of litigation.
  4. Sources of electronic information:
    1. Emails;
    2. Internet browser information (cookies, download records);
    3. Instant messaging/chat records;
    4. Efaxes;
    5. Electronic calendars;
    6. Voicemail;
    7. Text messages;
    8. Blogs;
    9. Chat-room/bulletin board postings.
  5. Deleted electronic documents are NOT destroyed

Electronic documents can be spread around the world in seconds, and there is no way to retrieve and destroy all the copies. Most importantly, a deleted file is never actually destroyed because a deleted file can be recovered. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to completely destroy an electronic document.

The following table provides the minimum requirements.

Type of DocumentMinimum Requirement

Accounts payable ledgers and schedules

7 years

Audit reports

Permanently

Bank reconciliations

3 years

Bank statements

Permanently

Board and Board Committee materials

3 years

Contracts, mortgages, notes and leases (expired)

3 years beyond life of agreement

Contracts (still in effect)

Permanently

Correspondence (general)

2 years

Correspondence (legal and important matters)

10 years

Correspondence (with customers and vendors)

2 years

Deeds, mortgages and bills of sale

Permanently

Depreciation schedules

Permanently

Deposit slips

3 years

Electronic mail

See type of document

Employment applications

3 years

Expense Analyses/expense distribution schedules

7 years

Year-end financial statements

Permanently

Insurance policies (expired)

3 years

Insurance records, current accident reports, claims

Permanently

Internal audit reports

3 years

Inventories of products, materials and supplies

7 years

Invoices (to customers, from vendors)

7 years

Marketing and sales documents

3 years

Minute books, bylaws and articles of incorporation

Permanently

Patents and related papers

Permanently

Payroll records and summaries

7 years

Personnel files (terminated employees)

7 years

Press releases and public filings

Permanently

Retirement and pension records

Permanently

Tax returns and worksheets

7 years from date of filing

Timesheets

7 years

Trademark registrations and copyrights

Permanently

Withholding tax statements

7 years

Last updated and approved by the Friends of MontanaPBS board on August 15th, 2014