Goldman Sachs is a master at making money. Lately it has become a master at giving it away. Goldman — for many a symbol of Wall Street greed and excess — wants the world to know it has a charitable side. With the same calculation that earned it a reputation as the savviest trading house on Wall Street, it has staked out a position as one of the nation’s leading corporate philanthropists, giving away more than $1.6 billion since 2008.
You may remember Goldman as the bank accused of making billions of dollars while ordinary people were losing their homes during the financial crisis. Or as the firm whose traders were said to have misled investors by selling them, as one memorable internal email described it, “junk that nobody was dumb enough to take first time around”.
Now Goldman executives say the firm wants to give something back. But Goldman also has been trying to polish its reputation with ordinary Americans and politicians in Washington. “Engaging wasn’t just the right thing, it was necessary, especially in the wake of the financial crisis when people said we weren’t doing enough,” said John Rogers, Goldman Sachs’ chief of staff, and a driving force behind the bank’s philanthropic efforts.
The shift is particularly noteworthy because Goldman — unlike most corporations with large charitable efforts — has no presence on Main Street.
But this is still Wall Street, where money is ultimate measure of worth, and how it is allocated creates resentments. Executives inside the bank say the Goldman Sachs Foundation, the clearinghouse of the company’s giving, has been given more resources at a time when the bank itself has been cutting back sharply on expenses — and people — on big trading desks.
This has created bitterness among some employees — bitterness stoked by the favoured status seemingly granted to Dina Powell, who runs the foundation. At a firm where pay is almost always tied to what money you bring in, Powell, who is in charge of giving money away, has made roughly $2 million annually in some recent years, according to people familiar with her compensation.
Then there is the way Goldman has been going about its giving. Goldman is a firm that prides itself on discretion, but it isn’t giving away its billions quietly. It has bestowed the Goldman Sachs logo — and hundreds of millions of dollars — on two splashy programmes, one that supports