There is a curious phenomenon nowadays when politicians pose heroically by admitting that they made a mistake.

Historically, a good example was U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s statement that the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion was his mistake for which he took “full responsibility.”

For that clearly he had no choice as it was under his administration that the debacle took place.

Then corporate chief executives admit that they had “full responsibility” for serious corporate errors, such as the faulty ignition system on General Motors cars that took many lives. Also Volkswagen’s faulty emissions test was acknowledged by that company’s chief executive.

Regardless of personal acknowledgement, they certainly had no choice.

On a personal level some who have committed criminal acts blame them on mental deficiencies, by claiming insanity. However, a recent study that examined the cases of a great number of mentally ill individuals who were found out not criminally responsible for their crimes argued the claim was merely an alibi.

That review revealed mentally ill individuals seldom commit crimes – less than one per cent of criminal cases. Those who have been so judged rarely commit crimes in the future, only about a fraction of one per cent within three years.Yet family members quite properly should receive extra attention.

A very well-known lawyer, Thurman Arnold, long ago argued that the insanity pleas were greatly overdone. That is particularly true in corporate affairs. Thus, some CEOs argue that they had no knowledge or culpability in the misdeeds of the corporation. That usually is nonsense.

Hence when we learn that a bad product or medicine has been offered, honesty should prevail, notwithstanding any excuse. If a company does not control such errors, that organization needs an overhaul.

Banks particularly are making major errors, such as loans that should not have been granted or mortgages far in excess of proper standards, or brokerage firms that lure clients to invest in corrupt enterprises.

What is required is disallowing “I am not responsible” as an excuse or not criminally responsible in many instances. Yet, the old adage “let the buyer beware” is a cop out. More conventional brokers must be held to account by securities commissions.

Responsibility in all cases must be enforced on the individuals and the business world.



Bruce Whitestone