Over the years, we have received many Nigerian-style letters asking us to help someone stash away millions left in an unclaimed bank account. Usually, we have tutted at the poor proofreading and literary style of these letters. Should a charity be formed, we wondered, to assist the senders to improve their business writing skills? The Save the Scamsters Fund, perhaps. They could fund secretarial courses for scamsters, and encourage celebrities to adopt-a-scamster.
We recently received a most impressive letter, apparently sent from Hong Kong, that was very well typed, with full justification, reasonable sentence length, broken into paragraphs, etc. Some extracts from the letter may give a flavour:
…since I have exclusive access to his file, you will be made the beneficiary of his funds. …Nobody is getting hurt; this is a lifetime opportunity for us. [We like the use of a semi-colon, although a colon might be even classier.] …$12.65m …involved in an accident in mainland China, which means he died interstate. [Oops, we think he meant to say “intestate”; marks deducted for that mistake.]
Closer to home, we hear that the English courts are ceasing the use of stenographers to take a note of proceedings. Anecdote alert! This blogger spent a couple of weeks as a Court Clerk at Aylesbury Crown Court during his training as a barrister in 1984. In the middle of a criminal trial during those two weeks, a barrister was cross-examining a witness. The court stenographer asked him to slow down, as he was speaking too fast for her to type his questions on the stenography machine. The barrister slowed down briefly, but then reverted to his previous pace. A few minutes later, the stenographer again asked him to slow down. The barrister stroppily complained to the judge that the stenographer was too slow. No, you are too fast, came the reply from the judge. Miss [Jones] is the fastest stenographer in England.
This wonderful put-down turned out to be true. Miss Jones (I have forgetten her real name) was the then-reigning champion of a national stenography competition.
Finally, can anyone interpret the following wording for us? It appears in a draft shareholders agreement and it has provoked a disagreement in the office as to what it is trying to say. A prize will be awarded for the best answer.
The Founders shall not be liable pursuant to clause [X] [clause X sets out a tax indemnity] except in so far as the same relates to any relief which has been included in the Accounts for the period up to the Accounts Date, to the extent that the relevant Group Company has utilised the benefit of any relief arising as a consequence of or by reference to any event which occurred or was deemed to occur during the period prior to the Subscription Date to obtain any relief for the purposes of Tax and the use of such relief is used to relieve or mitigate any Tax claim and only to the extent that such Tax is so reduced…