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Maven: Straight Talk

During a week in which the vice president was a touch slow in explaining that he mistook lawyer for fowl, it seems like a natural to ( groaner alert) take a shot at an aspect of public posturing more relevant to investors.

Only a day after news broke that Mr. Cheney spread buckshot into a friend, The Business Press Maven got a question from a reader, Joseph Michael Shay, about to what degree a company is obligated to swing from the chandeliers to tell everyone and his brother about a Securities & Exchange Commission investigation.

The Business Press Maven had to answer that being coy is not necessarily corrupt, though as a shareholder I would always tread carefully with the less-than-talkative.

But let's back up, careful of our fellow hunters.

China Natural Resources (CHNR), an outfit that filed an 8-K on Feb. 9 that included a little ditty about how heavies from both the SEC and NASDAQ have came a-knockin', requesting information about trading activity in the company's shares prior to a late January acquisition. The Business Press Maven tried to contact China Natural Resource for comment but did not hear back.

While the company must make account of the news in its filings and not lie in conversations with investors about the little men with magnifying glasses combing over the home office, Mr. Shay essentially asked why the company was not required to bang the drums to investors about the news.

To their credit, many companies start with a press release and, within strict limits from their lawyers, go from there. The laundered truth of the press release is always suspect, and trying to weave the less-than-innocuous little fact that 'the fuzz wuz here' into words on the wire is quite a dark art. But it only costs a fistful of change and is often a good first step toward semi-open discourse. And let's be fair: The SEC does sometimes overreach, entitling everyone to their protestations of innocence.

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