Goldman Is America's Most Hated Company Because America Is Kind Of Dumb

Goldman Sachs is somehow more hated than BP and General Motors which, uh...WTF?
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Ed. note: This is a weekly column by Elie Mystal, Managing Editor of Above the Law Redline, wrapping up the week that was in law and finance. Elie is not a practicing attorney, and anything he says that you listen to can and will be used against you.

I dislike Goldman Sachs too. It smells of rich mahogany. It has things that I'd like more of (like money) and it makes things (like money) out of seemingly thin air and it all seems vaguely unfair to me, a lawyer. But a new poll puts Goldman right at the top of the list of America's most hated companies and... like, why? A pollster calls you up and asks you to list some "bad" companies and you blurt out GOLDMAN SACHS because it's an investment bank you've heard of, and "Wall Street, man"?

Goldman Sachs doesn't break any laws. Well, check that, Goldman Sachs doesn't break any laws that the average "What is Caller ID" poll respondent can possibly understand. Goldman's not NYPD, it doesn't kill anybody. It doesn't make you wait in line. It's not a puppy mill. It doesn't make cigarettes or abortions or James Franco movies. What percentage of respondents do you think has any clue what Goldman Sachs actually does? Wherever you set the line, I'm taking the under.

And I'd take the over on "number of Americans who would work for Goldman if they could."

Goldman is first on the list, while BP is 11th. BP DROWNED NATURE IN OIL and it's 11th? General Motors is 13th. General Motors engaged in a decade-long conspiracy to hide defects in its sh**ty product that resulted in the actual death of humans. Goldman just makes money. It might be the Alien Xenomorph of making money, but still.

Really, the only reason to "hate" Goldman Sachs is that it seems particularly uninterested by your hate. You can't even hurt its feelings. It's managed to become financially, politically, and emotionally unassailable.

In any event, here are the twenty most hated companies from Bloomberg Businessweek. I'm not going to list the 20 most loved companies because the only thing dumber than hating a company is loving one.

1) Goldman Sachs
2) AIG
3) Dish Network
4) Monsanto
5) Halliburton
6) Sears Holding
7) Koch Industries
8) Comcast
9) Charter Communications
10) Bank of America
11) BP
12) Citigroup
13) General Motors
14) JPMorgan Chase
15) United Airlines
16) Time Warner
17) Walmart
18) DirecTV
19) ExxonMobil
20) Chrysler

By the way, America, the right answer is "Koch Industries."

Related

Goldman Surprised To Find Carl Icahn Being Kind Of A Dick

Sell-side M&A work is mostly a pretty good and lucrative business model but it has a few flaws. Try to spot a key one here: (1) you represent a target; (2) you spend your days fighting tooth and nail with the buyer to try to make them pay more and give up optionality, and generally to get more of the benefits of the deal for the target than for the buyer; (3) then the buyer acquires the target, fires all the directors and officers, changes the locks, and replaces the stationery; (4) then you get paid. Did you spot the problem? Carl Icahn did:

Goldman Sachs Does Not Look Kindly Upon First Year Analysts Who Plan In Advance

Pop-quiz: you're a first year analyst at Goldman Sachs, with a little more than twelve months left until your two year commitment is over and you are free to take a job elsewhere. Do you A) take part in private equity and hedge fund recruiting now, and, if someone was particularly impressed with your junior mistmaking skills, accept an offer for a gig beginning in June 2013 or B) tell the buyside you are sorry but are prohibited from engaging in such activities at this time, as they would pose a conflict of interest for Goldman Sachs? At this time, GS JM's believe the correct answer is A, while higher-ups, who believe there is a firm policy in place that says no analyst shall take part in recruiting until six months from the time they've finished the two year program, are going with B. So now this is happening: Goldman has been firing IBD first year analysts with buyside offers. Senior people are calling up funds to ask if any analysts have received offers from them. A bunch have been cut so far. A bunch, we're told, is in the ballpark of four, which seems like enough to put the fear of god into people.

FYI, Whitney Tilson's Investment Thesis On Goldman Sachs Has Not Changed In Light Of Times Op-Ed (Update)

Having said that, T2 Partners will be "monitoring" the situation. The op ed in today’s New York Times by retiring Goldman Sachs Executive Director Greg Smith is the talk of Wall Street. We think we know Goldman well, as the company has been our prime broker for the past seven years and Goldman (both stock and call options) is one of our largest positions, so we wanted to add our comments. Our direct experience as a client of Goldman has been universally positive. The many people we have dealt with there have all been exceptionally talented and high-grade, and never once have we had a negative experience in which we felt that they took advantage of us or didn’t do what they said they would do. That said, we are not naïve. In all of our dealings with Wall Street firms, we assume that they are looking out for their own bottom lines, not ours. And we are certainly aware that the old, gentlemanly culture in which integrity and a customer-first attitude generally prevailed is long gone – not just at Goldman, but across all of Wall Street – and, in fact, across the entire financial industry (the reasons for this and what should be done about it are the subject for another day). When we think about investing in any company – especially a financial one, which is heavily regulated, leveraged, and particularly difficult for an outsider to analyze – we factor into our investment equation our assessment of the company’s culture and values, and, if we have any concerns, what the potential associated risks are, such as unexpected losses and regulatory action. In light of our view of the moral decay across the U.S. financial sector, we aggressively haircut our estimates of intrinsic value in the sector – some companies more so than others. But at some price, of course, any stock is a buy, and last August and September we felt that the negativity surrounding the financial sector was way overdone and hence made a big – and, so far, very profitable – bet on Goldman and a number of other U.S. financial firms. With the run-up in Goldman’s stock – after falling below $90 as recently as December, it’s now over $120, just above tangible book value of $119.72 as of 12/31/11 – we’ve been debating whether to trim or exit our position, so today’s op ed is timely. But is it relevant to our investment thesis? We think probably not, for two reasons: 1) The argument that Goldman has become increasingly profit driven, sometimes at the expense of clients’ best interests, and that some employees use vulgar and disrespectful language is hardly news. What’s the next “shocking” headline: “Prostitution in Vegas!”? 2) We highly doubt that Goldman is as truly corrupt as Smith makes it out to be. Goldman has more than 30,000 employees (including nearly 12,000 vice presidents, of which Mr. Smith is one) and has gone through wrenching changes in the past year, including savage cuts to bonuses and extensive layoffs, so it doesn’t surprise us that there are many disgruntled employees, especially those who are leaving. Is Smith one of them? It’s hard to tell, but here’s an email sent to me this morning by a former partner at Goldman (who generally agrees that the firm’s culture is not what it once was): There are a couple of things out of place. 1) This guy has been at firm for 12 years and is only a VP…a piss ant of sorts. He should have been an MD-light by now, so clearly he has been running in place for some time. 2) He was in U.S. equity derivatives in London…sort of like equities in Dallas…more confirmation he is a lightweight. Somewhere along the line he has had sand kicked in his face…and is not as good as he thinks he is. That happens to a lot of high achievers there. In summary, we think it’s likely that Goldman does the right thing for its clients the vast majority of the time – but not as certainly as it used to in the old days. Times have changed and the trend is unfortunate, but it is not unique to Goldman. In fact, we believe that Goldman still has a better culture and is more ethical than most of its competitors – though this is a very low bar to be sure. Our investment thesis on Goldman is simple: when all the dust settles, it will remain the premier investment banking franchise in the world – and, if so, will be worth a substantial premium to tangible book value. Smith’s column is a warning flag that we’ll be monitoring closely, but we believe our investment thesis remains intact and the stock is still cheap, so we’re not selling.

The Art Of The Farewell

Not everyone gets to write a New York Times Op-Ed when they quit their job, however disaffected. It’s also easier to quit a job after twelve years of cashing investment banking paychecks. No matter how “morally bankrupt” Goldman Sachs is, Greg Smith isn’t giving his bonuses back. Unlike Smith, who quit his job on his own terms and got to publish most of his resume in the Times, most of corporate America isn’t as lucky – and almost everyone in corporate America really wants to quit their job. So what are you supposed to do if you can’t get any above-the-fold space in a major newspaper? You have to burn bridges the old fashioned way – by writing a farewell email.