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Fri, Sep 14, 2001 - Page 24 News List

World Business: Business officials insist corporate data still intact


Despite images of reams of paper raining down among the debris of the fallen World Trade Center towers in New York, business officials insist the work of the firms based there has not all gone up in the smoke that continues to swirl where the towers once stood.

Along with the still-untold number of victims lost in Tuesday's attack, when two hijacked passenger planes rammed the 110-story twin towers, a vast array of documents -- ranging from client account information and personnel files to trading records and insurance files -- has also gone down with the skyscrapers.

But industry officials are optimistic that much of this data can be recovered, since many large firms -- such as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, Kemper Insurance, Aon Corp and many of the others who had offices in the World Trade Center -- maintain backup copies of their files offsite.

"Large companies outsource a lot of things, and that's good, because the records are elsewhere," said Deborah Keary, director of the Information Center at the Society of Human Re-source Management in Alexandria, Virginia.

She pointed out that many firms maintain backup files of employee information, including addresses and phone numbers, and many also farm out payroll functions to outside, offsite firms like ADP.

In addition, many firms were encouraged to beef up such file-preservation systems after an earlier attack on the World Trade Center by a car bomb in 1993 and ultimately nonexistent Y2K glitch.

Morgan Stanley -- which took up 25 floors of the World Trade Center buildings -- told clients their records were intact and the company would be open for business as soon as the markets were.

"We'll be able to deliver as we always do for them," said a spokeswoman, who declined to give her name.

But the data puzzle was a bit more difficult for the market-regulating US Securities and Exchange Commission and the insurance-regulating Securities Valuation Office to piece together.

Located in a 47-story building in the World Trade Center complex that also collapsed, the Securities Valuation Office's records were lost in the rubble, along with its computer files, leaving the agency to rely on its backup systems, based in the midwestern US.

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