To: Hiring Committee, Goldman Sachs
From: Barry Ritholtz
Re: Position, Head of Public Relations, Goldman Sachs
Date: February 13, 2012
Now that your public relations chief, Lucas van Praag is (finally!) retiring, it is time for the executive committee to seriously rethink the position of PR head. To be blunt, your efforts have not been up to the level of excellence that one would expect from Goldman Sachs. It would be impolite to speak ill of the job done by LVP has done under challenging circumstances, but you gentlemen need to face the facts, and fast. On his watch, the firm’s reputation has suffered, its ability to recruit top talent has been compromised, and its market cap has gotten shellacked.
In short, your PR efforts have performed about as well as the ABACUS 2007-AC1 — the John Paulson created mortgage bundle that cratered. Or, about as well as John Paulson’s fund in 2011, which also cratered (I am seeing a pattern here).
All of which says, you guys have really stunk the joint up.
Thus, it is with great pleasure that I toss my hat into the ring for the position of Director of Communications for Goldman Sachs. Not only do I have the requisite skill set to help rehabilitate the image of the 100+ year old firm — media savvy, legal smarts, netizen, with just a dollop of snark — but I believe I can help you move gracefully into the new century.
Here is how I would restore the luster to the now tarnished Goldman Sachs reputation, returning her to her former glory.
1. Radical Transparency: In this day and age, with everyone Facebooking and Tweeting and Foursquaring, GS remains a bit of a mystery. Open the firm up — social networking for everyone! I want your traders Tweeting, your bankers blogging, your compliance people Tumblring. Instagram photos from the Muni Bond desk, Flickr accounts from the Prime Brokerage department. Why? So you can:
2. FLOOD THE ZONE: You need to overwhelm the public with info. When traders like the Fabulous “Fab” Tourre showed up in the press, people were aghast at the arrogance, impudence, and lack of empathy. That’s only because the public is so unfamiliar with how traders talk. Overwhelm them with the minutiae of life on an Institutional Sales Desk. It will titillate them for a few days, but then they will be proactively preempted — instead of the next recoil, the public will become inured to it.
3. Internal Legal Fund Line: Look, SEC fines and Civil Suits are merely the cost of doing business the Goldman Sachs way. Recognize this, and build into each transaction a small internal tax. Any decent trader will tell you the first loss is your best loss. Its much easier to write a $500,000 check than the $50 million or $500 million dollar one. The mistake you made with the Abacus case was not recognizing this soon enough and making it go away sooner.
PS: Who the hell is your outside counsel? They gave you awful advice, resulting in a half a billion dollar record setting fine. Fire those bums, and replace them with someone competent. (I’ll ask around for you)
4. Government Infiltration Service: Stop hiding the great public service that Goldman Sachs offers to governments around the world, and stand proud! There are legions of former Goldie employees working at every strata in every major government. Recognize the great charitable service these former employees provide, by taking enormous pay cuts to serve. Help these folks thru the difficulty of low paying government service, by holding some Goldman Sachs stock for them. When they retire from Civil Service, they have a small nest egg to rely on. They certainly are professional enough not to allow their holdings to compromise their objectivity when affecting policy!
5. Warren Buffett: Why are you hiding the Bailout Investment the legendary investor made in you? Promote it! I am spit-balling here, but how about advertisements that promote the savvy investment made by the greatest investor of modern times? “When the crisis hit, Warren Buffett entrusted billions to Goldman Sachs” — You cannot buy that sort of great PR! Or how about: Good Enough for Warren, Good enough for you! Thats Gold!
6. Sense of Humor: Every time I see a current or former Goldie CEO, they are stiff, formal and utterly lacking in any kind of levity. Granted, Senate Banking Committees are no place for stand up, but geez, what a buncha stiffs! Lloyd Blankfein, Hank Paulson, Jon Corzine, Robert Rubin. Lighten up, Nancies! A little humor goes a long way, especially during those dreary SEC meetings. I happen to know Robert Khuzami is total cut up! Try opening with a humorous anecdote.
7. Offense Beats Defense: Now take that sense of humor, and apply it in a way that humanizes the firm. Establish a fund for the preservation of the endangered Vampire Squid. Take Matt Taibbi out for drinks.Try to look less like the Borg, jamming your blood funnel where ever there is the smell of monies. Give out Vampire Squid plushies as gifts to clients and friends!
8. Play the Anti-Semite Card: As a fellow tribesman, I have been infuriated by some of the obvious attacks on the firm. Every time some critic spits out the words “Goldman Sachs,” they are really making thinly veiled Anti-Semitic attacks. Get PC on these people. Whenever the firm is assaulted by outside agitators, do some opposition research and dig up some dirt. Once you call out these Al-Qaeda sympathizers, a lot of the attacks will go away!
Well, that is my short list. My starting salary is negotiable, including a rich stock option plan, which I hope to liquidate tax free before eventually going into government service.
I await your call,