Monday, December 14, 2009

"I'm Doing God's Work"

"I'm doing God's work." 

Those are the words of Mr. Lloyd Blankfein, captain of the ship at America's (and possibly the World's) most powerful financial institution, Goldman Sachs, as recorded by John Arlidge of The Sunday Times, a British publication.  I know I don't usually talk finance here, but this is fascinating stuff, all about over the top financial and political power.  Arlidge takes us deep into the throat of the firm, speaking with its highest level executives, laying down an excellent (and witty!) expose of its culture and influence.  If you caught Michael Moore's latest documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Story," you may or may not have realized that Goldman Sachs was the building Moore approached in an armored car, complete with empty money bags, demanding America's money back! 

Do make the time.  You'll be fascinated and appalled at once by the influence and implications of Goldman Sachs' participation in the financial and political worlds.  Here is possibly the most boring paragraph from the paper, but it lays out the Goldman Sachs political reach so explicitely:

"Taking type-A people, making them feel like type-B people and moulding them into kick-ass teams that work every hour God — sorry, Goldman — sends, is important, no doubt. But it’s not Goldman’s killer app. That is its extraordinary networking ability. The firm is the greatest talent network in the world. Unlike at other banks, top performers are encouraged to get on, make all the money they will ever need in their thirties, then get out to "do good". The average tenure of a partner is eight years. "You don’t join for the retirement programme," says one staffer. "You have your phase of the moon to make money and then f*** off." But doing good does not mean running an HIV clinic in Kinshasa, it means getting top jobs in treasuries, central banks and stock exchanges around the world. The list of former Goldman executives who have held key posts in the US administration and vital global institutions in New York and Washington alone is mind-boggling. It includes: the treasury secretary under Bill Clinton (Robert Rubin); the treasury secretary under George Bush (Hank Paulson); the current president and former chairman of the New York Federal Reserve (William Dudley and Stephen Friedman); the chief of staff to the treasury secretary Timothy Geithner (Mark Patterson); the chief of staff under President Bush (Joshua Bolten); the economic adviser to the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton (Robert Hormats); the chairman of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (Gary Gensler); the under-secretary of state for economic, business, and agricultural affairs under President Bush (Reuben Jeffery); the past and current heads of the New York Stock Exchange (John Thain and Duncan Niederauer); the chief operating officer of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division (Adam Storch). Moreover, Goldman’s new top lobbyist in Washington, Michael Paese, used to work for Barney Frank, the congressman who chairs the House Financial Services Committee. To put this in perspective, imagine that Alistair Darling, the chancellor, and his key advisers, Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, Xavier Rolet, the boss of the London Stock Exchange, and Hector Sants, head of the Financial Services Authority, all used to work at the same City firm before moving into government. Small wonder that another of Goldman’s nicknames is 'Government Sachs'."  

Hold onto your hats, all.  This is, figuratively speaking, a frightening ride!  Here's the link to the entire article:

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