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Asked by the Press for the Company's Statement

Being in An Awkward Position--Being Asked for A Comment by The Press

If there is any chance of being asked by the press for your comment on a matter that affects your company, you may want to understand exactly what should be expected from you and why.

When Your Company Is Involved in A Lawsuit, Should You Comment

You can be honest that you are not the company's spokesperson and not familiar with the name of the company's relevant spokesperson, assuming there is a suit.

Refer questions to a designated spokesperson for the matter, if you know it. The rest of the time, do not comment. Although you can be honest that you are not the company's spokesperson and not familiar with the name of the company's relevant spokesperson, assuming there is a suit.

Having no comment is unobjectionable. You also must always assume that there is or will be someone specifically instructed by the company to address the press, media, the Web, investor, and other inquiries of all kinds and that no one else can comment for the company except a person specifically designated by the company.

Even if the company is slow to name a person, you would owe the company a duty to protect its right to later name a person to address the press and media on this subject.

Moreover, you must never forget that your personal opinions should not be volunteered. Officers have a duty to protect the company, including its right to defend itself and to seek confidential advice and opinions from attorneys before offering information. That includes the obligation to prudently remain silent pending that advice being obtained and thereupon digested and understood.

Which Is the Only Time to Make Comments to The Press

You should only make comments to the press about your company if it is within your job description, and/or when explicitly and specifically advised to do so by a lawyer for the company and/or when specifically advised to do so by an attorney you independently engage to represent you.

Shouldn't You Defend Your Company Publicly?

Truly, executives do have a duty to protect their company, and the duty they have can be fully and faithfully discharged by bringing the suit to their competent legal counsel's immediate attention. When asked by the press for an impromptu comment, the executive should remain silent and withhold any comment. After the company reviews the complaint, learns the facts, and receives the legal advice it should want, it will surely designate someone for commenting to the press.

The duties are called the fiduciary duties. They are very high standards, but even a fiduciary is entitled to fully rely upon experts like legal counsel within the area of their expertise, like responding to a suit.

Hiding the case from its own legal counsel of course would spell disaster, but being publicly open and providing comments or a "play-by-play" to the press is simply not required or advisable or customary, especially for defendants. In fact, it can be seriously deleterious to a company's due process rights and could justify a termination for cause or at least a strong admonishment and retraining of the executive.

Only if It Turns out To Be Harmful, Prejudicial, or Damaging, Can It Be Introduced at Trial Anyway

Any statement made to the public or to any party other than the aggrieved, or any statement made to an aggrieved party that is not explicitly and provably part of a settlement negotiation, can and will be used against the company during trial and, it would follow logically, against the executive, too. This is why you frequently hear, "We cannot comment on pending litigation" from defendants involved in a lawsuit. Statements of opinion by the defendant (which cannot be introduced at trial absent some good reason) cannot help.

If Not the Designated Spokesperson, Always Defer

Everyone who is not designated as the spokesperson should defer to the company's designated spokesperson to make statements to the press, media, or other interested persons.