Byfield Chairman, Richard Elsen, was quoted in The Times at the weekend following former Lehman Brothers' chairman and chief executive Dick Fuld's expression of 'no regrets' over the bank's collapse which ignited the world economic crisis in 2008.
It is not unheard of for a business leader to demonstrate a complete lack of remorse following a crisis. More common, however, is an apology that is offered too late or seems disingenuous. Thomas Cook CEO Harriet Green's recent offer to pay her bonus to a charity some nine years after the deaths of two children - Christie and Bobbi Wood - while on a Thomas Cook holiday in Corfu was described by the children's mother as 'abhorrent.'
During a crisis, avoiding reputational damage should be high on a business's list of priorities. Acting with humility and, where necessary, apologising early on costs nothing but can go a long way to soften public opinion. After all, mistakes happen all the time, but it is how we handle them that matters.
That reluctance to express regret, let alone confess personal responsibility, still rankles with many. Bruce Davis, a co-founder of Abundance, a British ethical investment firm, said: “There has always been a market for listening to the infamous and notorious, from Nick Leeson onwards, but Dick Fuld displays the classic ethical blind spot created by the pursuit of personal gain without thought of the risks or costs.” “I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t apologise,” Richard Elsen, a corporate reputation expert at Byfield Consultancy, said, “but I was gobsmacked he chose to make his first public appearance at a conference on penny stocks — the most risky, volatile and unregulated shares, often prone to manipulation.” Mr Fuld was speaking at the Marcum MicroCap conference for companies valued at less than $500 million.