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Hang Up the *#*$ Speakerphone

From Securities Liltigation Watch‘s description of a California appeals court decision:

Three Marvell employees–Marvell’s general counsel; its VP of engineering, and in-house patent attorney–gathered to call a person at Jasmine, a company with which Marvell was negotiating to purchase some technology. Using a speakerphone, the three left a message on the Jasmine employee’s voicemail. However, after leaving the initial message, they failed to hang up the speakerphone, and proceeded to have a conversation that also was recorded on the voicemail.

. . . As summarized by the California Court of Appeals (Sixth District), the contents of the inadvertent voicemail “demonstrate[d] [Marvell’s] theft of Jasmine’s trade secret, the potential consequences and the planned cover up.”

I once had a close call along somewhat the same lines (although in that case the recorded conversation was essentially harmless). At the time, we had a new phone system which many of us were still learning to use.

A colleague came to my office to call another party from my conference-table speakerphone. We wanted to talk to the other party about a transaction we were negotiating with him.

The other party wasn’t there. My colleague left a brief voice-mail message and disconnected the call. (Or so he thought.)

My colleague and I chatted in my office for a few minutes about the negotiation. He left my office; I went back to work at my desk.

A few minutes later, to my shock, I heard a female voice on my conference-table speakerphone. The voice announced, “If you have finished recording, you may hang up, or press 0 to reach an operator.”

Damn. We had inadvertently recorded our entire conversation about the negotiation on the other party’s voice mail. What to do?

Fortunately, I retained enough presence of mind to realize that the female voice on the speakerphone was familiar: The other party evidently used the same voice-mail system as my law firm.

I quickly pressed the keys to delete the message. With great relief, I heard the voice announce, “Your message has been deleted.”

Lesson: After leaving a voice-mail message, make sure you’ve actually hung up the phone.

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