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Stooge Man

Many years ago I applied for a job as a public relations guy. I didn't get it. But if I had, the chances are good that I would have done very little work to earn my pay packet. I worked out after the interview that all these guys really wanted was a name to put on the bottom of their press releases. The press releases would in all probability actually be written by the guy who interviewed me, who would have been my boss if I had got the job. I knew from the research I'd done on the company before the interview that a couple of the senior executives had had their wrists slapped for insider trading. They had dumped their shares in the company before some very disappointing trading results had been made public. A big no-no according to the regulator. What I didn't know was that the head of the public relations department had been among those executives. His problem was that he couldn't deny that he knew about the trading results in question because he had written a press release about them before dumping his shares. He got away with a slap on the wrist. This was where whoever got the job I applied for would come in. Theirs was the name would go on future press releases and the head of public relations would have what is called "plausible deniability". Next time around, he would be able to say, "I didn't know the trading results were so bad, Paul (or whoever) was handling the latest figures and did the press release". But of course, actually he wouldn't have trusted anyone but himself to have written the press release on such a sensitive issue as another major round of losses. This may also be known as employing a "cut-out" In places where libel could result in jail time, I understand some American newspapers used to have what was called a jail editor. He was legally responsible for what appeared in the paper and went to jail if it broke the law. This guy, and it was nearly always a guy, was probably familiar with a jail cell as he was often a down-and-out kept around the office for the sole purpose of going to prison. Meanwhile, the real editor made sure he was not legally associated with the contents of his paper. Legend has it one of the big New York department stores operated a similar dodge. If a customer made a complaint, one of the high-up store managers summoned the supervisor of the department involved. This supervisor was harangued and then fired in front of the customer. The customer was naturally very impressed by this. What the customer did not know was that the "supervisor" was just a smartly dressed guy who spent most of his time playing cards in the boiler room with janitors and could be summoned several times a day to be fired in front of customers. I can only imagine that the ploy was found out when one literally awkward customer encountered the supposedly sacked supervisor apparently more than once on the same day.  


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