Mea Culpa- Latin phrase that translates into English as "my fault", or "my own fault". - wikipedia
I've heard that the three hardest words to say, for most people, are these: "I love you."
In light of my constant delving into the worlds of big business and finance I'd like to add another couple rare phrases to the ranks.
When was the last time you heard a CEO or politician say "I was wrong" or "I am sorry."
When did these phrases lose favor?
The markets are reeling.
Where did it go wrong?
Turn on the news and you'll hear who is culpable.
Each political party blames the other.
Bankers blame the agents.
Agents blame the bankers.
The rich blame the poor who over-extended themselves.
The poor blame the rich who over-extended their companies.
As each CEO takes center stage and explains the position of their firm it's doubtful that any one of them will admit blame. Each will target market forces outside of their control or pressures too large for any one organization to withstand... we're unlikely to find any willing to accept a measure of responsibility.
Could it be? ... the Mea Culpa no longer exits?
What has happened to us? Are we incapable of culpability?
I asked myself this when I spotted a handy note-card from my car insurance company. It was titled, "What to do in case of an accident." One of the first pieces of advice was "do not accept responsibility."
Perhaps I'm reading too much into that phrase. But it makes me wonder if this is the new credo.
The movie "Love Story" has one of the more quotable lines, "Love is never having to say you're sorry."
Forgive my candor, but that's ridiculous.
Love, in my view, includes not only saying you're sorry, but also accepting responsibility and exhibiting an earnest desire to be open, honest and willing to improve.
Why am I yammering on about this?
Refreshing proof to the contrary:
Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Fed, spoke to lawmakers today. He explained his views on the market's turmoil. A firm believer in free markets, he fought against regulating the market for credit default swaps. This is not a scandalous view. Many capitalists eschew government's involvement in regulating industry.
Yet, he made a candid statement. He said, “I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms,” Referring to his free-market ideology, Mr. Greenspan added: “I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.” [full New York Times story here.]
OK... there's a bit of the "you-a culpa" in there... but still... this works for me.
Am I alone in thinking that we're better off when those in charge speak candidly?
I realize that the CEOs have a duty... that being, protecting shareholder wealth.
When CEOs speak with candor they are putting their livelihood on the line.
In March of 2007 Don Tomnitz, CEO of DR Horton- the nation's largest home builder said this, “I don’t want to be too sophisticated here, but 2007 is going to suck, all 12 months of the calendar year.” Predictably the company stock fell. More than a few shareholders felt he should be fired.
However, he was right... inelegantly stated- but factually correct.
Unless I'm mistaken, none of us have the ability to accurately predict the future.
We do the best we can with the "facts" before us. We are much better at hindsight. Even the dimmest bulb could explain, with some degree of confidence, his or her own mistakes. Problem is, we're much better at finding the fault of others.
It's just my opinion, but I feel we'd be better off concentrating on fixing our own foibles before spending great deal of time on fixing everyone else's.
So, with great hesitancy I'm going to do the hypocritical thing. I'm going to suggest a way to get through the current crisis facing the nation.
It's not a "to do" list... it's simply a request for the tenor of disposition that should be considered before making any further decisions.
Here it is:
I urge all people in high places to do one thing. It's simple- accept blame. Shun the temptation to spin and point fingers. I realize my request flies in the face of prudence. Anyone who chooses to heed this advice will certainly catch heat for so doing. However, I feel this is a very good first step.
When not riding his high horse, Chuck Willman can be found working in Phoenix area real estate.
Chuck Willman- www.AZvest.com - 480.292.0600
Photo Credit: "Sad Boy With Coins" by the talented photographer Kriss Szkurlatowski