One thing that won’t be left behind when Goldman Sachs moves from its shabby old digs at 85 Broad Street into a shiny new tower on West Street is that dark cloud of public distrust that’s hanging over the holiday bonus season.
Yesterday, William George, a Goldman board member, told Bloomberg TV the company is taking “a hard look” at how much to pay out this year.
“There is so much anger out there and I’m not quite sure how to ameliorate that, other than to moderate things and to recognize that Goldman and every other firm benefited from the actions of the Federal Reserve Board and the Treasury Department.”
Mr. George appears to be doing damage control here, after Goldman’s president Gary Cohn mucked up the company’s already-bumbling p.r. offensive by telling Vanity Fair: “I think we would not have failed…We had cash.” (That came just a few weeks after C.E.O. Lloyd Blankfein said his maligned company was “doing God’s work.”)
Naturally, this bravado drew the ire of irascible Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, whose job–and legacy, perhaps–are staked on the unprecedented intervention. “None of them would have survived,” Mr. Geithner growled to Bloomberg last week. And he went on to say: “We have to end that era of irresponsibly high bonuses.”
Across the pond, they’ve done just that, with a onetime 50-percent bonus tax that goes into effect across Britain today.
So, for now, Goldman execs might want to wait on buying one of those lavish bonus apartments with the Gordon Gekko-ish amenities. With any luck, and perhaps a slightly more regimented p.r. campaign, maybe next year might bring the sub-zero wine refrigerator, “tea for two” cast-iron soaking tub and frameless glass-enclosed shower.