Monday, November 09, 2009

Masters of the Universe; Too big to fail

This is a joke right?
With Goldman taking a daily beating in the PR department for everything from its runaway profits to "Government Sachs" conspiracies to swine flu vaccines, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein decided to give his side of the firm's story in a lengthy interview with The Sunday Times of London.

But some things are probably better left unsaid, most notably Blankfein's declaration that Goldman is "doing God's work."

It's an unfortunate phrase on many levels. What Blankfein was trying to say is Goldman serves a "social purpose," as The Sunday Times reported he also did say. "We help companies to grow by helping them to raise capital," Blankfein said. "Companies that grow create wealth. This, in turn, allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth. It's a virtuous cycle."

There is an element of truth to that statement but it shows a level of tone-deafness that's surprising, even coming from a Wall Street CEO. As Henry and I discuss in the accompanying video, there are concrete steps Goldman could take to refurbish its image, which is going to take another hit in the court of public opinion.

Given the ongoing outrage about Goldman's bonuses - estimated to exceed $20 billion for 2009 - a year after the company was rescued by the U.S. government (whether they admit it or not) - Goldman's supporters are probably wishing Blankfein had chosen to speak softly and carry a big checkbook.

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