• 04 Feb 2014 at 4:28 PM

Andrew Ross Sorkin Expects More From You

Time was, Andrew Ross Sorkin looked up to the CEOs of Wall Street and the titans of the business world. Respected the names they’d made for themselves. Admired the things they’d built with their own two hands. In them, he saw father figures, in him, they saw a son. In each other, they found someone to play catch with in the backyard.

But no son stays at the father’s foot, staring adoringly upward, forever. And, in his adolescence as adopted son-reporter, ARS cast a more skeptical eye at his father figures. He rebelled a bit. And in the last year or so, he found himself questioning how much of what these men said was genuine, and how much was lip service. He tried to shake the feeling that, for example, Jamie Dimon was simply telling the public what he wanted to hear when the JP Morgan chief apologized for WhaleGate, but it was an epic struggle. Was John Mack telling the truth when he said he was sorry for what happened to shareholders? Did Nasdaq chief executive Robert Greifeld really believe he “owed the industry an apology” over the whole Facebook debacle? Was Bob Diamond truly the most “sorry, disappointed, and angry” about the revelations that Barclays had engaged in Libor rigging, or was he just sorry it cost him his job? Instead of an apology, did he really wanted to issue a simple “HMD” and be done with it? Sorkin was starting to suspect with sadness that it was the latter.

Of course, Wall Street titans aren’t the only ones apologizing these days. And so it was, some weeks ago, that ARS stood transfixed on the Times newsroom, watching all 78 hours of Chris Christie’s Bridgegate apology. It sounded so familiar, if somewhat coarser. The accent may have been different, but, ARS realized, the content was the same. And that’s when the damn broke. The fear, anger and disappointment that he’d held back for so long, through a financial crisis, through the Libor fiasco, through the Whale, washed over him and left him a changed man. A furious man. A man who had a right mind to shout, “Y’all can stuff your sorries in a sack!”

In last night’s column, he did just that.

Target’s chief executive, Gregg W. Steinhafel, apologized for a security breach that affected as many as 110 million customers. Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase apologized, multiple times, for his firm’s regulatory lapses. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey apologized for controversial bridge lane closings and traffic jams. The venture capitalist Tom Perkins apologized after comparing the treatment of America’s wealthiest to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. LeBron James apologized for using the word “retarded,” calling it a “bad habit.” The age of the apology is clearly upon us — and it is not just about being polite. It has become de rigueur, an almost reflexive response among leaders to a mistake or, worse, a true crisis. The art of the apology has become a carefully choreographed dance: Say you are sorry, show vulnerability, tell everyone you are “taking responsibility” and then end with, “I hope to put this behind me.” If you’re questioning the sincerity of this apology movement, there’s good reason. Dov Seidman, a careful observer of societal trends and the founder of LRN, a firm that advises companies on their cultures and how they can translate them into better performance, has been tracking the apology trend for many years. He has become so troubled — and offended — by the ease with which apologies seem to roll off the tongues of our leaders that he called for an “apology cease-fire” in front of several dozen chief executives and politicians at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland…

Beginning on Tuesday, Mr. Seidman and I are starting “Apology Watch” on the DealBook website (nytimes.com/dealbook) and on Twitter using the hashtag #ApologyWatch. We hope readers will participate by helping us track new apologies and, more important, follow up on what companies, institutions and individuals have done post-apology Mr. Seidman has written a thought-provoking essay that explains the apology epidemic and lays out a set of measurements for how apologies should be held to account, which you can find on the DealBook site. You can tweet Mr. Seidman at @DovSeidman Public apologies demand a corresponding public engagement, and I hope that this column and subsequent ones will be a catalyst for a healthy, vigorous and insightful debate. Just don’t say anything you’ll have to apologize for later.

Consider yourselves warned!

Too Many Sorry Excuses for Apology [Dealbook]

22 comments (hidden to protect delicate sensibilities)
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Comments (22)

  1. Posted by bigdt | February 4, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    sorry i'm not sorry

  2. Posted by guest | February 4, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    This struck a chord.

    – guy w daddy issues

  3. Posted by Hobbes | February 4, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    So that explains why Sorkin hasn't apologized for the glorified corporate dick-sucking at Dealbook that he pawns off as 'business journalism'.

  4. Posted by David Faber | February 4, 2014 at 4:47 PM

    Wow, that isp a big change from the time I saw him dry humping Lloyd Blankfein's leg in the green room.

  5. Posted by guest | February 4, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    tough but fair.

  6. Posted by ...lower case J's | February 4, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    "ARS cast a more skeptical eye…"

    I see what you did there

  7. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 4:56 PM

    I'm sorry you feel that way, Ars.

  8. Posted by M. Bartiromo | February 4, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    Bags under the eyes, wrinkles, can't tell where the chin chin starts and the neck begins…nothing a little airbrush cant fix.

  9. Posted by Guest | February 4, 2014 at 5:07 PM

    "chin chin" I see what you did there…

    -guy who doesn't know if that was a typo or a reference to maria's double chin

  10. Posted by Walter Sobchak | February 4, 2014 at 5:09 PM

    Sorry seems to be the hardest word-
    -Peter Cetera

  11. Posted by L. Lynn | February 4, 2014 at 5:10 PM

    Don't tell me you're sorry, 'cause I know how sorry you are.

  12. Posted by guest | February 4, 2014 at 5:11 PM

    what?

  13. Posted by How to do it right | February 4, 2014 at 5:15 PM

    I'll say I'm sorry, but I'm not taking off my glasses.

    — Corey Worthington

  14. Posted by Laxbro | February 4, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    People I really want to punch in the face: 30-something dudes who ask adults to hashtag something. Congrats Sorkin, you've just earned a seat next to Jimmy Fallon.

  15. Posted by biglawinsecure | February 4, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    how else is he going to get access, and thus be the highest paid NYT reporter? You want him to see just as another faceless IB MD, desperately hustling for business because he works not at GS?

  16. Posted by Oliver Budde | February 4, 2014 at 6:50 PM

    Compliments to Bess Levin. So much of her work is excellent, but this piece truly shines.

    Sorkin is of course one of the biggest Wall Street apologists out there; his Times colleagues Jim Stewart and Ben Protess follow closely behind him. If he is truly coming around to the truth, good for him, and good for Times readers. He owes those readers a huge apology himself; let's see if he mans up and delivers something sincere.

  17. Posted by Quant me maybe... | February 4, 2014 at 8:39 PM

    Dude looks exactly how I imagined Matt Levine looked before he went and ruined everything by posting that awful head shot on Bloomberg.

    > Only thing missing from Levine's head shot was the fist under the chin and the head tilted to the right (you younger shits might want to watch Napoleon Dynamite for the reference).

  18. Posted by Turnip Truck | February 5, 2014 at 2:53 AM

    Tough but fair.

  19. Posted by MSM apologist, not | February 5, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    ARS' new photo makes him look more like the shameless toady he has been to date. Coming up next : a lengthy apologia describing how he woke up and realized just how his pillow was paid for, and by whom.

  20. Posted by guest | February 5, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    do you honestly think Napoleon Dynamite is an old reference? Or that the average age here isn't 30-35, i.e. the exact people who watched ND?

  21. Posted by Quant me maybe... | February 5, 2014 at 12:11 PM

    This is what I imagine the typical DealBreaker reader who posts under the name 'Guest' looks like. Just add the Bloomberg or the 27in monitor with PowerPoint open and done.

    <img src="http://thechive.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/tattoo-sexy-27.jpg&quot; width="50%"/>

  22. Posted by Gasbag | February 5, 2014 at 2:03 PM

    Come on yous guys. Dis aint fare to ARS. I knows dat when da guys at cnbc fired my sorry ass dat it wuz becuz guys like Sorkin was talking behind my back and dat I'z dropped a couple of F bombs on da air. But dis whole ting about Andy aint rite. Take it from me – da greatest reporter in da world on da best station in da world (nobody cares about us ratings becuz we break all da news).

    Charlie Gas