Business Idioms: Dodgy Dealings

We would like to think that all businesses conduct themselves in a moral and legally responsible way. Unfortunately, however, we do not live in a perfect world and there are companies as well as individuals who do not adhere to these standards. With this in mind, in this installment of Business Idioms we will discuss a few idioms related to doing business the wrong way.

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

  • After he was arrested for fraud, his ill-gotten gains were seized by the government.

Note: Seize is to take quick and forcible possession of; 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 meaning to be controlled by someone else because of bribes that they pay you (e.g., “the gangster had the police commissioner in his pocket”) .

to cook the books – to falsify financial records.

  • They concealed millions of dollars in losses by cooking the 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 – a process by which people 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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