Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When God's Work requires an apology...

In a year that has seen unemployment spike to its highest levels in decades and government debt reach record levels, Goldman Sachs is on track to pay out its highest employee bonuses ever in the firm's history.

All part of "God's work," Lloyd Blankfein suggested in a recent interview with the London Times.

Here's the intro from that story:

"Number 85 Broad Street, a dull, rust-coloured office block in lower Manhattan, doesn’t look like a place to stop and stare, and that’s just the way the people who work there like it. The men and women who arrive in the watery dawn sunshine, dressed in Wall Street black, clutching black briefcases and BlackBerrys, are very, very private. They walk quickly from their black Lincoln town cars to the lobby, past, well, nothing, really. There’s no name plate on the building, no sign on the front desk and the armed policeman stationed outside isn’t saying who works there.

There’s a good reason for the secrecy. Number 85 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004, is where the money is. All of it.

It’s the site of the best cash-making machine that global capitalism has ever produced, and, some say, a political force more powerful than governments. The people who work behind the brass-trim glass doors make more money than some countries do. They are the rainmakers’ rainmakers, the biggest swinging dicks in the financial jungle."

Not sure which God Blankfein prays to, but it's the rare God that places high value on owning "the biggest swinging dick in the financial jungle." In my Bible, the excessive acquisition of wealth is generally frowned upon. And in the Gospel of Luke, the wealthy end up in hell, actually.

But in Blankfein's mind, the acquisition of record-breaking bonuses is God's work indeed. In fact, as he told the Times, "everyone should be happy."

But they're not - all those many people outside of Number 85 Broad Street. Congress isn't happy. Main Street isn't happy. And now Goldman Sachs shareholders aren't happy.


So what's Blankfein going to do?

Why apologize, of course.

“We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret,” Blankfein, 55, said at a conference in New York hosted by the Directorship magazine. “We apologize.”

A bizarre public relations move from a man usually more on top of his game.

But not to worry. The apology is not going to get in the way of the bonus payout. Because as the Goldman Sachs spinmeisters have told us repeatedly over the year, the best and brightest, the brilliant minds who "participated in things that were clearly wrong," will leave Goldman Sachs if they do not get their bonus.

Making some consumers feel like the economy is being held hostage by people who want astronomical sums for screwing up, then maximizing profit to be made from the government's generosity.

There'd be no Goldman Sachs today if not for the government bailout of the financial sector, a bailout that cost billions and added to the nation's debt.

But God works in mysterious ways. The bankers who survived the collapse of the financial sector - not because of their brilliance - but because the feds bailed them out, will be richly rewarded in this year of high unemployment and record government debt.

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