Will Wall Street Ever Say ‘Sorry?’
Continuing with the ‘Sorry’ theme there is an article in the January 12, 2010 New York Times, “For Bankers, Saying ‘Sorry’ Has Its Perils,” everyone is watching and waiting to see if the bankers and financiers on Wall Street will ever apologize for their role in the 2008 financial crisis.
Unless you have been under a rock since August 2008, you may have heard that the United States financial markets suffered a steep starting in September 2008. Since then various U.S. government officials have been trying to get to the bottom of the root causes this crisis. A lot of the blame goes to various Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, AIG, and Bear Sterns to name a few. For those firms that have survived this crisis, some of those CEOS are preparing to testify in the next few days at the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and their companies during that period.
What are we really waiting for? An apology, but you may as well keep on waiting as it never seems to arrive.
From the article:
“American culture does not put a premium on apology,” said Michael Useem, professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “The level of anger in this public in general is extremely high against those who led Wall Street into the abyss, in part because they never stepped forward to apologize for the mess they made.”
In November Lloyd C. Blankfein may have uttered an apology, but will he do it at the hearings?
The art of the nuanced regret — admitting mistakes without accepting blame — will be on display Wednesday at a hearing of the new Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in Washington, where Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, John J. Mack of Morgan Stanley and Brian T. Moynihan of Bank of America are to testify about their roles in the financial crisis. Mr. Blankfein, whose firm is on track to report blowout 2009 profits, uttered the word “apologize” in November although he is not expected to repeat it in his testimony Wednesday. “We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret and apologize for,” he said, without elaborating on what “things” the firm did wrong.”
Maybe it is just the DNA of Wall Street. This is the place where the high rollers of finance perform and only the best and brightest compete. To show any sign of weakness and you will be tossed out of the ring quickly:
Sydney Finkelstein, a management professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, said his research for a recent book showed that heads of Fortune 500 companies almost never apologize for poor performance. “Out of the 100 or so companies we looked at, only one acknowledged managerial culpability — Andy Grove at Intel for the company’s handling of the Pentium,” he said. “We specifically looked at many other companies,” he added, “and found none who admitted managerial error, let alone apologized for it.” Another reason it is so hard for chief executives to apologize is that they simply tend to have big egos that are not used to admitting mistakes, said Robert F. Bruner, dean of the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. “You don’t get to the top of a large and highly competitive organization by debasement and humility,” he said.”