Goldman Sachs survived the recession, paid back its TARP funds, and roared back to profitability, but has failed at every attempt to improve its public image. Its plan to pay out $16 billion in bonuses this year didn't help, annoying shareholders as well as populists. Getting private shipments of swine flu vaccine -- along with other Wall Street players like Citigroup --made matters worse. Then, of course, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein let slip his opinion that banks are doing "God's work." Given all this, it's hardly surprising the firm has is still the go-to Wall Street whipping boy. To repent, Goldman has offered a $500 million dollar apology intended to help small businesses weather the recession.
Pundits aren't going for it. If the firm wants to save its public image, they say it's going to take more than $500 million dollars and a "hollow" apology. Here are four things pundits suggest Goldman Sachs could do to get back into Americans' good graces:
- Help Pay the National Debt The editorial board of The New York Times says Blankfein's words are "hollow," and a "non-apology." They call Goldman's $500 million dollar donation "crumbs from its table." The Times is incensed. And they've got a suggestion for the firm if it's truly interested in making good with the country:
So, here's a thought: A multibillion-dollar gift to the federal Bureau of the Public Debt, which accepts tax-deductible donations to reduce the national debt. The donation can come from the bonuses; that way, it would not harm shareholders, because they only get their cut after the bonuses are paid. Goldman's tax savings from the donation could help finance the small-business initiative.
- Help Americans Stay In Their Homes The Daily Finance's Peter Cohan suggests that the firm donate money to help stop foreclosures across the country. "If Goldman really wants to erase public anger, maybe it should cancel bonuses for the next five years and put them in a fund to help people who lost their homes due to foreclosure," Cohan writes. "But I don't see that happening."
- Ask Americans What It Would Take To Be Forgiven New York Magazine's Jessica Pressler asks readers what Goldman could do to fix its public relations. "We'd like to open up a forum down below that Lloyd et al can check out with utter deniability," Pressler writes. "What do we want to see next? Do we need them to physically open up their books and reveal the hedge positions that prove they did not need the AIG bailout to survive? Do we just want them to admit that, while they may be talented traders, that they are not actual soothsayers who would have been actually able to predict what would have happened if AIG had collapsed, which Van Praag indicates they are in his letter?"
- Change the Company Name Joseph Palermo of The Huffington Post says Goldman Sachs should make like Blackwater and find a new name. "Goldman Sachs should probably follow Blackwater's lead and "re-brand" itself by changing its name," he writes. "Even the miracle workers at Brunswick won't be able to sell stealing from local governments as 'God's work' to the public." After all, Palermo says, "there's really no better example of Goldman Sachs' utter contempt for the American people than its swindle in the form of stealing public funds through manipulating the municipal bond market."