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Bank Failures: Does Sorry Go a Long Way?

The perpetrators of the US financial crisis — the bailed out fat cats on Wall Street or greedy bankers — have managed to stay pretty anonymous during this entire saga. Bernard Madoff has become a poster boy for the era, but he represents crime not incompetence. And criminal or not, I can't remember any individual offering profound apologies to the American public on whom they now rely.

In the United Kingdom the tale of failed banks has characters, and apologetic ones at that. Yesterday the former heads of the UK's biggest failed banks came before Parliament to confess their sins. Their direct and simple remorse contrasts the attitudes of some bailed-out American corporations, who still defend ongoing extravagance as business decisions.

The former head of HBSO, which is now 40 percent owned by the government, said: "The bonus system has proved to be wrong. Substantial cash bonuses do not reward the right kind of behavior." The former CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland said he "could not be more sorry" for his bank's over-leverage and ultimate failure.

When the public offers its support to these institutions, can a heartfelt sorry lessen the pain? Perhaps an acknowledgment of mistakes will prevent history from repeating itself.


Join The Conversation
stephley stephley 8 years
If it was in a general news report about the situation, I'd agree: but because it is in the context of some guys apologizing while others are still misbehaving, I'd shrug it off as word choices for the purpose of the story. If the British bankers turn up at in Monte Carlo tomorrow, I think Citizen would be equally hard on them.
kranky kranky 8 years
I tried to respond steph, but sugarworld ate my comment. Basically, I said that the comparison and the description of the "bailed out fat cats on Wall Street or greedy bankers" leaves much to be desired in the unbiased department.
kranky kranky 8 years
I am probably being overly sensitive, steph. But I do think the direct comparison between the remorseful UK bankers and the "the bailed out fat cats on Wall Street or greedy bankers" is hardly an unbaised look at the situation.
kranky kranky 8 years
You are right org - there are always opportunities, even in a bad market. However, even though some people revile the Wall Street fat cats, I don't believe that Americans are going to feel that the economy is secure until the stock market starts gaining confidence.
stephley stephley 8 years
Not a European - I just don't see pointing out something one group does as possibly good says another group is bad. I don't see how any of what was written says Europe is all good America is all bad and capitalism is the root of all evil - it refers to "the attitudes of some bailed-out American corporations" defending "ongoing extravagance". Hardly an indictment of everything American, and only reflects poorly on capitalism if you automatically associate it with 'ongoing extravagance', which I don't.
genesisrocks genesisrocks 8 years
I agree UnDave
jnj213 jnj213 8 years
I'm taking a class on American public address, studying speeches and speakers. FDR's 1st fireside chat about the banking crisis is so eerily similar to what has happened now. I highly recommend them, he puts a lot of the blame squarely on the 'money-changers', the people in charge of the exchange of man kind's goods. Sorry really is not enough.
kranky kranky 8 years
Steph I don't know why you are insensitive to that - are you European? (I am not being sarcastic... asking a real question here). Or is it that you just don't care? It would be the whole second paragraph that did it to me.
organicsugr organicsugr 8 years
You're right Kranky. There was a steep sell off on the news that it passed. Financials took a beating and no one was there to buy up the stock flooding the market. I only made back a fraction of what I lost yesterday, and I own several financials. Just a chance to buy more; they're a steal at these prices.
stephley stephley 8 years
I didn't get the whole Europe is better than the U.S. thing from the story - but I obviously lack sensitivity to that issue.
kranky kranky 8 years
Here's an example, the AP is running a headline that the market has 'rebounded' on the news that the stimulus bill passed. The market dropped over 300 points yesterday, and closed 50 points higher today. That is not a rebound. What is going on here?
kranky kranky 8 years
I second that org. The only way we will emerge from this mess is if we look at the situation as it REALLY happened, and not how any particular interest group tells us it occurred. Anyone who holds their party's line and shuts their minds to the idea that many groups of people are at fault are placidly midwiving financial collapse #2.
kranky kranky 8 years
I'm gonna take that as a no. What disturbs me is that the post managed to distill a complex issue into yet another discussion of why Europe is better than America AND that capitalism is the root of all evil. Thing is, I would not consider the UK as a reasonable model for how to deal with financial crises... they are in even worse shape than we are. In other news - can anyone confirm that they took out the homebuying credit in the most recent version of the stimulus package? My coworker told me it was so, but I can't find anything on it...
organicsugr organicsugr 8 years
"The perpetrators of the US financial crisis — the bailed out fat cats on Wall Street or greedy bankers — have managed to stay pretty anonymous during this entire saga." Is that really what we think? The bankers caused the credit bubble? Because, they didn't. The only thing you can fault them for is not seeing the credit bust coming. But neither did the Fed, who caused it, or congress, who are supposed to oversee the Fed.
stephley stephley 8 years
What do you find disturbing about it?
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
What do you find disturbing about it, Kranky? The idea that the American ideal of personal accountability and responsibility for one's actions appears to be in play far more overseas than among our own business leaders? ;)
kranky kranky 8 years
Is anyone else disturbed by this post?
cassedy04 cassedy04 8 years
sorry definitely helps. a thank you wouldnt be so bad either since we are all keeping them afloat right now.
stephley stephley 8 years
"The bonus system has proved to be wrong. Substantial cash bonuses do not reward the right kind of behavior." Admissions like this help, but if they're just from one or two guys, it's not going to make any real difference.
nguidjol nguidjol 8 years
Agree UnDave35!
amybdk amybdk 8 years
Yeah, no kidding!
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I'm sorry is a start. I'd like to see that followed up with "Here's the money of yours that I lost."
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