|November 21, 2009|
|Goldman Sachs Tries to Buy $500M of Good PR|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|Nobody should ever slug a gift horse in the mouth, but there is just something about Goldman Sachs' high-profile $500M grant to spur small business development that makes one want to take a swing or two at the steed. |
The words "public relations stunt" come to mind.
The investment banker's grand gesture follows a much less publicized move: Goldman donated extra swine flu vaccines to the good people of downtrodden Jersey City following questions about why the swells on Wall Street swells were getting the shots in the first place.
Can't the Goldman bankers get the shot from their own doctors in Greenwich? Jersey City officials are trying to figure out how to administer Goldman's shots.
There is more out-of-touch stuff. Goldman, a lead engineer in the financial train wreck that drove the global economy to the brink, ruffled many feathers earlier this month after CEO Lloyd Blankfein said Goldman is doing Gods work. [Note to Lloyd: You gave Father Murphy a great chuckle. He welcomes you to the soul-saving business.]
Blankfein did a 360 at the Nov. 17 National Association of Corporate Directors conference in New York, saying "We participated in things that were clearly wrong and have reason to regret. We apologize." Hours later, a two-page Goldman release unveiled the "10,000 Small Businesses Initiative." Drumroll, please.
A half-billion dollar booty is nothing to sneeze at. Small businesses are the drivers of the economy in terms of creativity and job creation. Many will benefit from Goldman's gift. Five hundred million dollars, however, will do nothing to cool the white-hot wrath boiling in millions of Americans that are crazed by the irresponsibility and greed living large on Wall Street, which is led by Goldman.
That leadership position requires bold action. The pitchfork and torch crowd are assembling, eager to storm the barricades set up at 85 Broad St. They are incensed by news that Goldman has set aside $16.7B so far for 2009 bonuses. That works out to an average $700,000 per employee, or less than three percent of the $500M offer to small business. The bonus pool makes the small business grant look like chump change.
A modest proposal: forego this year's bonus completely, or direct it to the lowest earners at Goldman. It's not that Goldman's bankers count on the dough for milk money. It's that huge Wall Street payouts are wretched excess during a time of economic chaos.
In conjunction with Goldman alum and New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Goldman's cash could go to economic development programs for downtown Manhattan, an area that would be hammered by the "no-bonuses and feeling your pain plan of '09." Direct Goldman's billions to engineering, science, and advanced manufacturing programs throughout the country to develop talent needed to make things that really matter.
Talk about good PR. Goldman would be heralded far and wide as the banker known for creating civil, versus financial, engineers. That would truly be "God's work."
A tip for Goldman's PR team: pitch the civil engineering story to Rolling Stone. Offer an exclusive. Do whatever it takes.
Goldman's PR has never rebounded from the devastating July RS piece by Matt Taibbi that referenced the banker as "the giant vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity." A Google search for "Goldman" and "great vampire squid" turns up 554,000 entries.
Goldman's PR team has its work cut out.
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