Should Wall Street Apologize?

Photo by flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nromagna/439778127/sizes/l/">nromagna</a> used under a <a href="http://www.creativecommons.org">Creative Commons</a> license.

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


This, from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s New York Times Q&A, will probably make you angry:

Q. This may sound Pollyannish, but while you have been interviewing the Wall Street chief executives for your book, did you ever get the sense that they felt responsible or remorseful for the damage they had done? Or for that matter, did they feel any gratitude toward the average taxpayer for saving them?

Much of the anger in the country could be abated with a simple “I’m sorry” and “Thank you for coming to our rescue.”

— Craig Wensberg, Millburn, N.J.
 

A. I must say that one of the frustrating parts of researching my book came when I finally got to ask the question of Wall Street chief executives and board members that you just raised: Do you have any remorse? Are you sorry? The answer, almost unequivocally, was no. (Or they just didn’t answer.) They see themselves as just one part of a larger problem, with many constituencies to blame.

Many of the most senior members of management on Wall Street now consider themselves “survivors,” as if they were cancer survivors or something. That’s the word they use. While many of them are self-aware enough to politely nod at the notion that they received help and were part of the problem, they seem reluctant to acknowledge they were “rescued” or “saved.” There are probably a few exceptions, so I shouldn’t paint them all with the same brush, but on the whole, that was the takeaway.

I recognize that that answer will only increase public outrage. But it is true.

David Corn asked a bunch of Wall Street CEOs this same question back in March, and got basically the same answer. David came away with the impression that “high finance means never having to say you’re sorry.” If we haven’t seen any remorse yet, we’re probably not going to see any going forward—the stock market has rebounded and risk-taking and bonuses are getting back to their pre-crash highs. I’d rather have real reform than an apology, anyway. I don’t think we’ll get either—But if we don’t get real reform, maybe the next crisis will be so bad that even trillions of government dollars won’t be able to stop the bleeding and CEOs will have to face the music. If that happens, I look forward to telling Ken Lewis and his ilk to go tell it to Timbaland.

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate