Goldman Sachs sidesteps shareholder spring

People walk past Goldman Sachs headquarters in New York City. At the bank's annual meeting, the only storm was the weather outside. Shareholders laughed and voted for everything management wanted.

Kai Ryssdal: Goldman Sachs is often called the most powerful investment bank on Wall Street. Because it is. But the years since the financial crisis haven't been kind. A former member of its board of directors is on trial this week for insider trading. Goldman was involved in the botched Facebook IPO. So one might reasonably assume the bank's annual shareholder meeting today would be tempestuous.

Our New York bureau chief Heidi Moore was there.


Heidi Moore: Sister Barbara Aires, of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, still remembers the day that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein joked that his firm was "doing dod's work."

Barbara Aires: Well, we weren't particularly thrilled with the outcome of that particular "dod's work" at the time.

She means all the financial hanky-panky that led up to the crisis. Sister Barbara braved the rain and intense security today to urge Blankfein to use his powers for good. She was one of 200 shareholders who attended Goldman's annual meeting in Jersey City, N.J.

Shareholder Stephen Viederman didn't mind the schlep.

Stephen Viederman: This is always good theater, if nothing else.

But there was more laughter than dramatic tension. Blankfein, who is known for his sharp wit and skeptical expressions, was on his best behavior, says Sister Barbara. She jokingly asked him for a job. He retorted that he couldn't outbid her celestial boss.

Aires: I've seen him when he was a little upset, and today I thought he handled himself quite well -- tempered, allowed everybody to speak. He didn't cut anybody off.

Only about seven shareholders in the sparse room asked questions. Blankfein's thorough responses seemed like part of Goldman's friendly image makeover. In an ongoing charm offensive, the firm embraced the masses today to join Twitter. In fact, the meeting was so calm that Viederman, a shareholder, noticed that at least one member of the board of directors was taking care of other business.

Viederman: I did, while I was in the back of the room watching the dynamics, see at least one doing his BlackBerry.

No shareholder spring here. Goldman's investors voted for everything Goldman's management wanted.

In New York, I'm Heidi Moore for Marketplace.

About the author

Heidi N. Moore is The Guardian's U.S. finance and economics editor. She was formerly the New York bureau chief and Wall Street correspondent for Marketplace.

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