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Lloyd Blankfein has broken his two-year media silence, insisting he has no plans to step down as chairman or chief executive of Goldman Sachs.
The Goldman chief, whose bank has been hit by a number of scandals since the financial crisis, appeared on CNBC and Bloomberg television for the first time since 2010 on Tuesday. The bank has become a prime target for populist outrage about the crisis and government rescues of banks – despite not being bailed out directly.
“We haven’t gotten everything right in how we deal with the public,” Mr Blankfein told CNBC.
“We’re going to have to do a better job … in getting out there and telling people how important this industry is,” he said in his Bloomberg interview.
Mr Blankfein’s return to the public eye and signal of intent to stay at the helm will not be welcomed by all of Goldman’s senior employees and alumni, some of whom are keen for him to step down to make a clean break with the reputation troubles of the last few years.
Last month alone, a mid-ranking employee in the bank’s London office penned a scathing op-ed which criticised the way the company treats its clients and accused its bankers of referring to customers as “muppets”. A US judge also criticised Goldman’s role on a $38bn merger as being riddled with “conflicts of interest.”
“If you want to rule out conflicts of interest you’ll just give advice to maybe one company, never give lending, never give capital support,” said Mr Blankfein.
On the investor side, some shareholders have questioned how the bank is dealing with the new post-crisis regulatory environment, which, among other things, outlaws so-called proprietary trading by banks – a recent driver of profits at Goldman.
Mr Blankfein has been at the helm of the bank since 2006 – its trading heyday.
But Mr Blankfein said on Tuesday that he had no plans to leave or split his dual-role as chairman and CEO – another recent corporate governance bugbear.
The change in Goldman’s public relations strategy comes shortly after Jake Siewert took over as head of communications for the bank from Lucas van Praag.
Mr Siewert has a record of working for senior figures with reputation problems – he was White House press secretary under former US President Bill Clinton after the Monica Lewinsky scandal and a close communications adviser to Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, helping him through a rocky start in office.