Critical Minute – Coming Soon to PR and IR: Admitting Guilt

The job has just gotten more complicated for PR and IR pros at companies that run into trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The new head of the SEC, Mary Joe White, says that – in some cases – the agency will no longer let misbehaving companies settle and pay a fine without admitting wrongdoing. White says the new practice will be limited to defendants who have already admitted guilt in criminal proceedings.

There will still be plenty of boilerplate press releases that include the phrase “neither admit nor deny. But in the most serious decisions – where White says the public must know that a person or company is being held accountable – there will be no way to escape taking blame. For those of us who work in PR, this is unchartered territory.

Thanks to search engines, it’s become easy to find templated releases on just about any topic to serve as a guide as we craft our own, very similar announcement. But even the most intense search of LexisNexis or Factiva is unlikely to find a press release containing the phrase “guilty as charged.”

Keep your eyes open for this new generation of government-mandated mea culpas in the months ahead.

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Insights provided by the Critical Mention media monitoring service

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