What on earth is going on at Wachovia?
Who? Wachovia, you know, the fourth largest bank in the US.
The reason for asking is that senior management have just issued one of the most amazing mea culpas in banking history.
In it they talk of being "deeply saddened", of apologising "to all Americans" and of being unable to "atone for the past".
So what on earth can these breast-beating bankers from Charlotte, North Carolina, have been up to?
Losing their customers' money? Laundering drug money? Financing terrorism?
No. The fact is that these sorrowful executives have been forced to write an apology running to no fewer 111 pages on the grounds of something far more terrible.
They have been exposed as slave owners.
Not them exactly, but the owners of two predecessor banks from the days when slave owning, despicable as it was, was not against the law in the USA.
Research has found that the long gone Georgia Railroad and Banking, founded in 1838, once owned, at least, 162 slaves and that the Bank of Charleston, founded in 1839, once had 500 slaves on its books, having acquired them as collateral from defaulting borrowers.
Even though it was formally abolished in 1862, slavery was a stain on the early history of the USA and should never be allowed to fade from the collective memory.
Along with Nazism and Communism, especially the mass murder regimes of Stalin and Mao Tse Tung, its history should be instilled into each successive generation.
But really, what on earth can be gained from Wachovia's anguished corporate hand-wringing now any similarities between the present entity and its slave-owning predecessors are dead and buried?
After all, in 2004 Wachovia gave more than $11 million dollars to organisations that support today ' s African-Americans.
The answer, it emerges, is: good business.
Wachovia's apology did not stem from late-onset contrition in the boardroom but from the fact that it had to give it in order to carry on doing business in Chicago whose City Fathers have passed a law compelling all companies that do business with city authorities to disclose any profits ever made from slavery.
It is just another example of the extent to which politically correct academics and professional bleeding hearts are extending their clammy lifedraining philosophy out beyond the university campuses where they are best confined. In their guilt-ridden minds it is essential for those of us alive in 2005 to apologise for acts committed by our ancestors centuries ago.
But commonsense dictates that today's law-abiding companies can in no way be held to account for the sins of their predecessors.
If that were so it would be unlikely that the likes of Krupps, IG Farben, Daimler Benz and BMW, those former powerhouses of the Third Reich's killing machine, would now be key contributors to Germany's economy.