Why 'sorry' isn't in many CEOs' vocabularies anymore

Wrongdoers will have cover only for so long, and some CEOs and politicians eventually will be identified as key culprits, Kellerman says. She predicts they will likely be exposed by shareholder activists and Internet bloggers. Few hold hope of apologies from elected officials, who don't have to protect the viability of a company and have only their own personal reputations to defend. Congressional apologies often require smoking guns and more often involve sexual scandal than acts of public harm. In Congress, harmful actions are blamed on others, Gaines-Ross says.

"It's hard for most of us to imagine how someone could be responsible for such damage and loss to others and not feel an urgent need to apologize," psychologist Yarrow says. "Obviously some of those investment bankers and politicians aren't like the rest of us."

"I think that the heavens, or natural common wisdom, may be suggesting that we try to live more down-to-earth and honest lives, " says Kyocera's Inamori, who is a Zen Buddhist priest. He says profit is society's reward for serving its interests.

"In order to restore and revitalize capitalism, it is crucial that business executives regain this attitude," Inamori says.

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