Corporate policy question - Personal Laptops

Hey all,
Needed some advice on a corporate policy issue. If an employee has a
personal laptop in the office, and that employee is terminated in the
process of a merger, can the company wipe the hard drive of the
personal computer before it's returned to that employee? Here's the

Our company is going through a merger, and through the rounds of
"integration" of the two companies, employees that are let go from the
IT department are escorted out of the building immediately, and not
allowed to return. Their manager packs up their personal affects and
ships it to them. In one case, the employee had some personal laptops
in their office, and wants them back (obviously). Are we allowed to
wipe the hard drive of that personal laptop before giving it back to
the employee?

I'm trying to determine if this is even legal or not, so I'm not sure
where to look for advice.

Thanks ahead of time....

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