Goldman Concedes its PR Strategy was "Probably a Mistake"

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In case you missed it, here’s Lloyd Blankfein’s first extended television interview in, well, we can’t remember how long. Goldman has long been a firm that refused to answer most journalists' questions and usually gave a “no comment” to interview requests, even the most innocuous ones.

But, as Lloyd told Charlie Rose on Friday, the firm is doing some “soul searching." He conceded the firm's longstanding strategy of not engaging with the public was “probably a mistake.” (Secretive hedge funds take note.) That strategy sowed a misunderstanding among the public at large about what the firm actually does, he said.Well, it’s taken a financial meltdown, civil fraud allegations and, most importantly, a big drop in its stock price for Goldman to finally realize it needs a better way of telling its story. It recently hired Mark Fabiani, a crisis management expert who was a special counsel to President Bill Clinton, to help repair its image.

“We’re very important but the public doesn’t see that,” Blankfein said on the show. “There are ways in which I can do a better job of informing people about markets and what we do and the contribution we make. We have to be more transparent.”

On the Volcker Rule, Blankfein said it would only affect about 10 percent of the firm’s revenues. “If we eliminated all the activity that’s unrelated to client activity at Goldman Sachs, it would probably do away with about 10 percent of our revenue,” he said. Also, forget any notion of Goldman reverting back to a private partnership, as some have suggested, because it needs access to permanent capital, Blankfein said on the show.

In addition to the strong support from Warren Buffett, the negative publicity doesn’t seem to have affected Goldman’s client business. It advised, along with JPMorgan, on United’s $3 billion merger with Continental and it’s advising, and providing financing, for Pearson’s $3.1 billion sale of its Interactive Data unit.

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