As Mr. Dickens might say, this is A Tale of Two Apologies. It is the worst of excuses, it is the best of excuses. The first apology risks making your head explode, but the latter happily is a hoot, a salve that will return you to a state of peace and joy.
My co-founding partner of the National Apology Society, Nell Minow, sent me a scathing article on the Bloomberg website here by Matt Levine, in which he uses a scalpel to dissect and then shred the supposed "apologies" that several banks were required to make as part of their guilty plea deals for federal crimes of antitrust conspiracy in illegally fixing foreign exchange-rates. It's quite a galling article, as it is intended to be -- showing how after sending out the required disclosure statement as demanded by the court, the banks (which include Barclays, Citi, JPMorgan, UBS, and the Royal Bank of Scotland) also out their own letters to clients along with the required disclosures, which make clear they are not apologizing at all, but that all of these actions -- which, again, they plead guilty to for anti-trust conspiracy -- weren't illegal at all, but just their normal business practices.
Note: we know they were their normal business practices. That's why they were convicted of them.
In describing the first, required disclosure letter that JPMorgan had to send out as directed by the Justice Department as a condition of their guilty plea, author Levine notes --
"It never says 'and those practices were wrong.' Or 'and we're sorry we did those things.' Or even: 'and we'll stop doing them.'
"Because they won't! Here's another letter that JPMorgan is sending to its clients along with the disclosure notice. This one is not a condition of its probation. Here's how it starts:"
[BobNote: I've stripped out the legalese for easier reading.]
"The purpose of this letter is to clarify the nature of the trading relationship between you and the Corporate & Investment Bank at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and its affiliates...and to disclose relevant practices of JPMorgan...in the wholesale spot foreign exchange...markets. We want to ensure that there are no ambiguities or misunderstandings regarding those practices."
Matt Levine then continues, putting this in proper perspective:
"So: That does not sound like an apology. That sounds downright feisty. The disclosure notice, which JPMorgan has to send, starts with an apology and then goes on to list some things that JPMorgan did in the past. The client letter, which JPMorgan wants to send, starts with a defiant "no ambiguities or misunderstandings" and then goes on to list some things that JPMorgan will keep doing in the future."
It's a wonderful, if teeth-aching article well-worth reading the whole thing. Some gets a bit detailed in technical, financials machinations, but overall it's quite clear.
However, prior to reading this, I had intended to write about something the very opposite. After all, as Nell and I scour the globe for public apologies, we don't limits our efforts to wrong-headed ones, but also to give equal due top-notch ones.
I think I've come across a gem.
This was posted by Chris Pratt, who co-starred on Parks and Rec, and is about to head off on a promotional tour for the upcoming Jurassic World, in which he stars. He posted to following on his Facebook page. It's a hoot, and he gets the concept of apologies spot-on right.
I want to make a heartfelt apology for whatever it is I end up accidentally saying during the forthcoming "JurassicWorld" press tour. I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone and I am truly sorry. I swear. I'm the nicest guy in the world. And I fully regret what I (accidentally will have) said in (the upcoming foreign and domestic) interview(s).
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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