WHEN A STREET criminal commits a crime he usually says, "I didn't do it." Whether true or not it's a simple declarative sentence that everyone understands.
But when a large company is charged with violating the law, its spokesman resorts to gobbledygook in hopes that the publicity concerning the crime will blow over.
Here are some of the favorite lines that big business uses and also what the spokesman really means.
"We have no comment on the charges until we can study them." What this person is really saying: "Maybe by next week, the reporter won't call back."
"Since the case is now a legal matter, we don't think we should say anything about it at this time," which translates into: "If we keep it in the courts for five years, everyone will forget what the payoff scandal was all about."
"I believe when the facts are in the public will realize we are the victims of a politically motivated zealous prosecutor who is trying to make a name for himself." Translation: "We told the sales people if they got into price fixing we didn't want to know about it. But the dummies put everything down on paper."
"There is no truth to the government's charges that our products are unsafe. Under normal conditions they are accident-proof. But we can't guarantee them when the consumer doesn't follow the instructions." Translation: "Oh boy, it looks like we're in for another recall."
"All of the chief officers of this corporation were of the alleged bribes that were paid to foreign agents. Our people know that if any employe of this firm becomes involved in this kind of activity, he will be summarily dismissed." Translation: "We'll have to sacrifice the guy, but if he keeps his mouth shut we'll make sure he gets his full pension. If he talks to save his own neck he won't get a dime."
"The president has resigned because he wants to spend more time with his family, and the chairman of the board is leaving as he believes a younger man should be given the opportunity to run the company." Translation: "At least when they're indicted they won't be officers of the corporation."
"We have decided to plead "no contest" to avoid an expensive legal battle which we are certain we would win." Translation: "Our lawyers have advised us we don't have a chance in hell of winning the case."
"While our main concern is, and always has been, safety, we must state that if we make the changes demanded of us it will cost the consumer $150 more for each unit." Translation: "If our engineers are correct we should make $100 profit on each deal."
"There is no scientific proof that any of the animals that died within a three-mile radius of our chemical plant were affected by poisonous substances which we are alleged to have produced." Translation: "We've been dumping waste in those fields for 20 years. You would think the farmers would have enough sense to keep their dumb animals away from them."
"Cars don't kill people. People kill people." Translation: "So we put the gas tank in the wrong place, and now everyone wants to make a federal case out of it."
"As chief executive of this firm I am shocked and appalled that the grand jury would come to this conclusion. The charges are so ridiculous that they are unworthy of comment." Translation: "Get me Edward Bennett Williams on the phone immediately."