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Press release: Lawsuit brings to light obsolete GSA particle size standard

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PHOENIX, ARIZONA –A recent lawsuit alleging three shredding companies did not meet federal standards for destruction has brought to light contested issues within the secure destruction industry. For the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) – the non-profit trade association for the industry – this lawsuit also serves as a reminder that their members have an ethical responsibility to fulfill contractual agreements with their clients.

“There can never be an excuse for not fulfilling any contract as agreed upon with the client,” said NAID CEO Bob Johnson. “But when it comes to data protection, there is an even higher burden to fulfill those obligations.”

Johnson added, “Recent news that two companies settled with the federal government over allegations of deviating from contractual obligations serve as good opportunity to remind us of this responsibility.”

Yesterday, Iron Mountain and Shred-it settled for $1.1 million with the United States government. The case was originally filed under the False Claims Act by Douglas Knisely, who operates a paper shredding business in Pennsylvania. The False Claims Act permits citizens to bring lawsuits in the name of the United States alleging fraud against the government. Click here for a copy of the lawsuit. Johnson is quick to add that neither company admitted guilt but, rather settled to avoid the much higher cost of an extended legal battle.

Besides reminding the industry of its ethical responsibilities, NAID executives believe the incident may help to address the archaic and obsolete General Services Administration (GSA) standard in question. In 2011, GSA began the process of revising the standard but has yet to implement any changes. NAID maintains that information destruction is a process of which particle size is only one consideration.

“As it stands, I could meet the GSA specifications using known criminals on the corner of a high crime neighborhood as long as my particles were the right size,” added Johnson. 

Today, most secure information destruction is provided by third-party services using large industrial shredders that comingle the materials of hundreds of clients before sending it off to be recycled. The particle size may be bigger but the entire process is more secure. The current GSA specification was created when paper was shredded in the office and simply discarded; therefore, the focus became particle size.

“I am not defending any violation of a contract, but the obsolete GSA spec is keeping good companies like Mr. Knisely's from providing a perfectly secure service,” said Johnson. This lawsuit might force U.S. government offices to spend far more than they need to shred it themselves or paying a service to reduce documents to that unnecessarily tiny size.”


About NAID: The National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) is the non-profit trade association of the secure destruction industry, which currently represents more than 1,900 member locations globally. NAID’s mission is to promote the proper destruction of discarded information through education and to encourage the outsourcing of destruction needs to qualified contractors, including those that are NAID certified.