You haven't worked much in big business, have you?
I've known people who have been threatened legal action for giving bad references ("you cost me the job!"). I've known people who have been threatened legal action for good references ("you said this person was going to be good!"). Amusingly, I know one person who's gotten both (the founder of a 20ish-person shop)
There's a reason lots (most?) big company nowadays makes it official HR policy to only confirm salary and dates of employment. Said founder, above, also never gives out references.
If getting a statement like that raises questions for you, it raises questions for me whether you're experienced enough to be a good hiring manager.