“We all made mistakes, which we openly admit,” Ackermann, 60, said in the television interview broadcast Monday evening.
The head of Germany's largest bank said he “absolutely” underestimated the severity of the financial crisis, which was exacerbated by the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September. Ackermann said he had thought turbulent markets would calm down somewhat over the summer, but that the collapse of Lehmann had put an end to his optimism.
“Since then it's been really, really bad,” he said.
While Ackermann refused to offer an apology to Germans hit hard by the crisis, he said that striking bonuses for himself and management would be a sign that “we acknowledge our share of the blame and help ensure that this disaster doesn't happen again.”
He called for closer supervision of financial markets, particularly in the US, and said closer cooperation between central banks, governments, individual banks and clients would ensure that the mistakes that led to the current situation would not be repeated.
“I've lost a lot of money myself,” Ackermann said. By forgoing his bonus, the banker's income will fall to under €2 million this year.
That is likely cold comfort to left-wing firebrand Oskar Lafontaine, who is demanding harsher penalties for executives who mismanage large sums of money.
“There is a new capital crime that has nothing to do with murder or manslaughter, but with the misappropriation of millions,” the co-leader of The Left party said in Tuesday's edition of the newspaper Die Welt.
Lafontaine's comments provide cover to Peter Sodann, The Left party's candidate for German president, who as a former TV cop has said he'd like arrest banker's like Ackermann.