One of my mum’s refrains, from when I was a kid, is being invoked on an increasingly regular basis. It seems that Mr. Nobody (that bloke who trampled mud all over the living-room carpet in 1979) has returned to wreak havoc on our financial system!
As I re-read reports of the big bank bosses’ appearance before a parliamentary committee last week, I can totally understand mum’s frustration whenever my sister and I chose to claim complete innocence for disasters that were clearly of our making.
Bank bosses accept no culpability because, they claim, no-one could have foreseen the circumstances that have since befallen us.
The trouble with such claims is that it just ain’t so. I can say that with confidence, having been treated to a superb MBA session on macro-economics with Roger Martin-Fagg back in Spring 2007.
Whilst I’ll confess that a fair bit went over my head, his predictions were straightforward enough: there’s an American sub-prime bubble that’s set to burst and, when it does, we’re going to find ourselves in the middle of the deepest recession in living memory. (As predictions go, I’d give him 10/10!)
Whilst playing the blame game doesn’t solve anything, and I know it’s totally naive, I just can’t help wishing that one of these senior bankers would have the balls to ‘fess up and say, “My bad.”
“We didn’t see it coming, we took risks we shouldn’t have, and we’re all paying the price. It’s going to take a very long time to rebuild your trust, but we hope that an honest admission of our fault can be the first step in that process.”
Would that really be so hard, or so damaging, to say?
Bank bosses: you stand guilty in the court of public opinion anyway, so why not take out the Teflon shoulder pads and show a little contrition? At least then we’d know what you’re actually sorry for!
At the moment, as Nick Robinson so beautifully describes it, their apologies are a bit like the captain of the Titanic saying sorry for the existence of the iceberg, rather than for helping steer us into it.