Find me a safe harbor from 'forward-looking statements' ... please!
Posted by John Keller
My wife, a wise woman, warned me that at around age 50 I would look around at the world I inhabit and find an alien landscape. Well, I'm nearly 49, and I barely recognize anything.
I remember television in a major metropolitan area with only seven channels. I remember conducting business without cell phones, personal computers, or the Internet. Most notably I remember news announcements without "safe harbor statements " and "forward-looking statements ."
I know the lawyers have taken over pretty much everything, but I think the lunatics are running the asylum, and have been doing so for much longer than I have taken notice of it.
I've been looking at press announcements almost every day of the nearly 27 years that I've been a professional news reporter. Add in my years as a high school and college journalist and ... I don't even want to think about it. New stuff creeps in over time that I barely notice, but I've reached my limit.
I'm routinely getting news announcements these days in which more than half the text is the so-called "safe harbor statements" and "forward-looking statements." I just got one yesterday that was 335 words long. Often my entire news stories contain fewer words than that.
What are these things, you might ask. I think they're mostly legal fig leaves intended to shield companies from litigation, as per the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 .
In other words, it's like a lot of things these days designed to stave-off lawsuits -- like warning people that coffee is hot, high-calorie foods can make you fat, and cigarettes can kill you. Is this news to anyone?
Well, the 335-word forward-looking statement I got yesterday has three core points. I hope you're sitting down because these are Earth-shattering revelations:
1) some of the things we say here are not necessarily historical facts;
2) some of the things we say here are guesses that might not turn out like we think they will; and
3) business is risky; real-life can sometimes get in the way.
I, for one, am shocked ... SHOCKED ... to hear that guesswork and risk are part of doing business. I never would have known, had this forward-looking statement neglected to tell me so.
Seriously, though, is all this really necessary? Please, find me a safe harbor from all these forward-looking statements.