Columnist Hugh Anderson, writing in Canada ’s National Post pointed out there is not enough information to put a value on the securities underlying the $35 billion of frozen asset-backed commercial paper clogging up the Canadian money market.

What this means, more likely, is that the insiders seeking to arrange a bailout have all the information they need but they don't like what they see.

That's one line of defense for professional money managers who claim to have been blindsided when they parked money in investments that were supposed to be equivalent to cash.

Another line is what criminal lawyers and police call confession with an explanation.

This was set out remarkably clearly by Henri-Paul Rousseau, head of Quebec's caisse de depot, in his recent appearance before the public finance committee of the Quebec assembly. The agency put no less than $13.2-billion in now-frozen paper.

How did that happen?

"We underestimated the risk," he said.

It's one thing for amateur individual investors to do that kind of thing.

It should be quite another for a highly paid and experienced professional. But in any case, Rousseau explained, they figured the commercial banks and the Bank of Canada would bail them out if it came to that.

That's like your client saying he or she thought the bank would cover the loss in that unfortunate mutual fund investment it sold.

As earnings warnings proliferate, advisors would do well to commit to memory frequently used euphemisms and their likely meaning.

A favorite is "challenging," used to describe the earnings outlook. What this usually means is: "We're in trouble and we really don't have much idea of how to get out of it."

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