Goldman bankers at new HQ seem unfazed amid crisis

By Phil Wahba

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc may be facing its biggest crisis in years but you wouldn’t have known it from the responses of bankers coming and going at its spanking new headquarters on Friday.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had just charged the investment bank with fraudulently marketing a subprime mortgage product that was designed to fail, news that spooked investors and sent Goldman’s shares down nearly 13 percent.

But if Goldman staff were anxious about what the charges could mean for the firm, its reputation, and their own prospects and self-image, they weren’t saying.

Almost to a person, Goldman workers heading out for lunch or to meetings blankly stared at a reporter and walked off without saying so much as a word when asked about the atmosphere inside the firm, displaying the discipline for which Goldman is famed and that has helped to earn it enemies.

Only one executive, clad in a pinstriped suit, broke the silence, smiling and saying under his breath, “It’s like every other day,” before heading toward one of several black limousines lined up outside the 43-story skyscraper in Lower Manhattan, near the site of the World Trade Center destroyed on 9/11.

The “business as usual” tone was in stark contrast to comments that could be heard from bankers at some of its rivals and from some investors as news about the SEC case became the day’s major topic of conversation at banks and investment firms in New York and other banking capitals of the world.

Goldman is the firm that many others on Wall Street love to criticize, partly because of its success and a perception that it can be arrogant.

“People wonder how Goldman was able to make as much money in trading as they did at a time when nobody else was doing anything and maybe this is a reason why,” said Malcolm Polley, chief investment officer at Stewart Capital Advisors in Indiana, Pennsylvania. “If the SEC has brought charges on one instance, my guess is it will open a can of worms.”

And one top banker at one of its rivals said: “Obviously there’s going to be a great amount of Schadenfreude because everyone loves a scandal.”

“But it seems too early to make any judgments. Goldman, because of its size and stature, is the firm people love to hate. It’s too soon though to predict total doom,” said the banker who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

SLIGHTLY FRIENDLIER GOLDMAN

Despite the news, and the barrage of criticism Goldman has faced from lawmakers and the media in the past few years because of its huge profits and high compensation levels, the notoriously secretive bank did not ramp up its already high security on Friday, according to police and security officers regularly stationed at the HQ.

One of the New York Police Department officers at the building’s rear entrance said, “We are here for counter-terrorism.”

The building is protected by barriers designed to block a bomb-laden vehicle from approaching, and there are several NYPD police officers assigned to various entrances to the building, which is only a few hundred yards from the Hudson River at 200 West Street.

The police and Goldman security showed restraint on Friday, attempting to direct journalists to assigned spots just off a bike path that goes down the highway and in front of Goldman’s front door, rather than barring them altogether.

One police officer had even earlier allowed a Reuters reporter to enter and take a look at the large mural in the lobby before later restricting that access.

That stood in stark contrast to their approach two weeks ago, when a Reuters photographer was threatened with arrest for trespassing by an NYPD officer as he sought to take pictures of the new building.

Investment Analysis

(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Richard Chang)

Goldman bankers at new HQ seem unfazed amid crisis