Business Idioms: Idioms about Dishonesty

under the tableWe would like to think that all businesses conduct themselves in a moral and legally responsible way but, alas, we do not live in a perfect world. It is with the companies and individuals in mind that we dedicate this installment to idioms about dishonesty.

ill-gotten gains money acquired in a dishonest or illegal manner.

  • His ill-gotten gains were seized by the government when he was arrested for fraud.

Note: To seize is to another way to say “to take quick and forcible possession of.” It  is synonymous with confiscate.

to line your own pocket – to take advantage of a situation purely for your personal financial benefit.

  • He had been lining his pockets for years with company funds.

Note: Pocket is also used in another idiom related to bad business: to be in someone’s pocket. This means that someone is controlled by someone else because of bribes that they pay you (e.g., the gangster had the corrupt official in his pocket).

to cook the books – to falsify financial records.

  • They concealed millions of dollars in losses by cooking the books.

Note: The books here refer to accounting ledgers and so a related idiom is “to keep two sets of books”.

under the table – something done secretly (and usually illegally) in the business world.

  • To avoid paying taxes, they paid some of their employees under the table.

Note: If this idiom is used to qualify a noun or a noun phrase, hyphens must be used, as in “under-the-table payments.”

money laundering – to conceal the source of illegally-obtained money so that it is believed to be legitimate.

  • They had been using other smaller companies to launder money until they were caught.

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