September 20, 2006
"I shouldn't have asked..."
A Hewlett-Packard lawyer asked whether the company's investigation of it own board was on the up and up and was told -- "It is on the edge." (See Damon Darlin & Matt Richtel, "Some at HP Knew Early of Tactics," NYT today). His response, "I shouldn't have asked." I assume he asked for no further details. The lesson, apparently, is that by asking, the lawyer may have lost his ability for a "plausible denial" of knowledge of the illegal techniques used in the investigation. He still can argue that he thought "on the edge" meant legal, I suppose, but the plausibility of his denial is now suspect. He knew that he put a plausible denial a risk.
He needed better training in the use of the technique, I guess. I need to suggest to the Dean that we teach a course in the techniques of "plausible denial" for our law students; the skill seems to be very important nowadays. Get just enough facts to offer a valid legal opinion (or other advise or services) with qualifiers and disclaimers, charge a nice fee, avoid investigating any red flags and put aside any suspicions, and then tell everyone after a scheme blows up that you were hook winked too and assumed that the limited facts as given in your opinion were the entire story. Yup, that's the ticket.
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If you know that you shouldn't have asked, then you probably know the answer to the question that you shouldn't have asked.
Posted by: Michael Webster | Sep 25, 2006 11:35:43 AM