Love them. Hate them. Lob somewhat imaginative insults in the general direction of 85 Broad. Suck on their gold-plated scrots. When it comes down to it, Goldman Sachs could really honestly care less. Sure, they're not thrilled by this new (or if not new, intensified) trend in which everyone hates their guts, which would explain why the bank has begun allowing basically anyone into the building in an attempt to combat the bad press, the conspiracy theories, and the websites popping up daily claiming to have evidence that Lloyd Blankfein has been trafficking human fetuses created with the sole intent of one day putting grass on that field. They're not idiots. They do want to at least make a vague effort to show they're not "oblivious to public opinion," and, seriously, if you mention the AIG thing one more time, or suggest there was some impropriety there, someone will be dispatched to go circus freak crazy on your ass, but really? So long as no one stands in the way of makin' it rain? You can say or think whatever you want. Yes, even you, you hooker loving dick.*
The idea that things might just go back to the way they've always been on Wall Street is, of course, infuriating to those who had hoped the financial meltdown would be an opportunity for reform. A few days after Goldman reported its second-quarter profits, Eliot Spitzer, a critic of the AIG bailout, tells me: "If all we are getting are newly empowered and capital-rich hedge funds that benefit from market volatility, then we are not only rebuilding the same edifice, but we're contributing to the underlying rot in our economy."
In the end, Goldman's reputation is a luxury they may well be able to do without. Robert Rubin has been privately critical of how the firm has handled the threats to its prestige, and Rogers recently addressed the firm's reputation in seminars with Goldman staff. But a person who frequently talks to senior executives at Goldman sums up the company's attitude this way: "If we can push the envelope without D.C. punishing us, we don't care about our Main Street reputation." Blankfein in particular is said to be dismissive of the firm's critics. According to a person close to him, the CEO believes Goldman's internal problems will disappear once compensation comes back. In other words, money will solve everything.
Is Goldman Sachs Evil? Or Just Too Good? [NYM]
*Goldman's words, not mine.