Washington — Facing a hail of criticism, Goldman Sachs’ top officer offered an apology for the premier investment bank’s role in the subprime mortgage crisis that sank the nation’s economy.
In a simultaneous move apparently intended to help repair its battered image, Goldman announced a $500 million program to invest in small businesses across the country. That’s 2.5 percent of the $20 billion in bonuses that Goldman is expected to pay its 31,000 employees next month.
Speaking at a New York forum for corporate board members Tuesday sponsored by Directorship Magazine, Lloyd Blankfein said his company had been picketed recently about things “that we couldn’t affect even if we wanted to.”
Blankfein’s comments came two weeks after McClatchy Newspapers published a series describing how Goldman sold more than $40 billion in bonds tied to risky mortgages in 2006 and 2007 without telling investors that it was secretly betting on a sharp housing downturn that would depress the securities’ value.
Goldman also has been under fire for its anticipated bonuses next month amid the nation’s worst economic crisis in 80 years, and for Blankfein’s comment, as quoted in The Times of London, that he’s “doing God’s work.” In addition, Goldman and other investment banks have drawn heat because they got early allotments of vaccine for the H1N1 virus despite a nationwide shortage.
During his appearance at the New York forum, Blankfein denied that analysts at Goldman had anticipated the housing crash, leading to the firm’s secret.
When he was asked what lessons he and the company have learned, he said, “There was a lot of negligent behavior, improper, bad behavior, behavior that has to be fixed and sorted through. ... We don’t take ourselves out of that. I include ourselves in that.”