Insincere sorry can scupper a stock

Researchers at London Business School use a facial action coding system to assess the sincerity of public apologies by executives at listed firms.

When the chief executive of Toshiba, Hisao Tanaka, made a deep bow and resigned before news cameras at the company's Tokyo headquarters last week, researchers at the London Business School were more interested in his facial expressions than his words.

Having scanned, frame by frame, hundreds of hours of videotaped press conferences in which corporate leaders, including Tony Hayward, BP's CEO at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, apologised for bad behaviour, their focus is on the physiognomy behind the sorry.

While earlier studies have determined the most effective time for a CEO to publicly apologise and even the most effective wording of an...

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