Goldman Sachs Loses Business Over LGBT Support
Goldman Sachs Group’s chief executive announced that his support for the LGBT community has cost the company at least one client, Reuters reported.
Lloyd Blankfein said that his views on gay rights was "not without price" during an even that aimed to increase Wall Street’s role for LGBT equality in corporate America.
The businessman said there was at least one incident where a money management client "did not want to continue a relationship" with Goldman due to the company’s stance on gay rights.
"I won’t say the name of the client, but if you heard the name, it wouldn’t surprise you," he said.
Hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer also was at the event, which was called "Out on the Street."
Last February the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) presented Blankfein with its Corporate Equality Award making the CEO the group’s first national corporate spokesman for gay marriage.
"Lloyd Blankfein is not someone average Americans would think is going to support marriage equality," Fred Sainz, an executive from HRC said. "The green visor crowd is not typically associated with socially progressive policies, and this is further proof that a diversity of Americans are coming to the same conclusion."
Blankfein has been the CEO and chairman of Goldman Sachs since 2006 and has supported same-sex marriage for quite awhile. In 2011, Blankfein, along with other businessmen, signed a letter that asked New York legislatures to legalize gay marriage.
Singer, who is a conservative, has also pushed for gay rights. His foundation has supported a number of charitable projects including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund. Singer’s son is gay and married his partner in Massachusetts last year. Additionally, the businessman donated $425,000 of his own money and raised another $500,000 to support marriage equality in New York.
At the event, Blankfein acknowledged that Singer’s support for LGBT rights comes from his personal life but the Goldman Sachs CEO said his reason comes from "business practicalities of having a diverse and talented workforce," Reuters notes.
"As a business person, as a corporate leader, as a recruiter and as a human, it is not something I regard as heavy lifting," Blankfein said.
Although the investment company has come under much scrutiny it has been forward thinking when it comes to its LGBT employees. Gay Sachs workers can expect to be reimbursed for the extra taxes they pay on domestic partner benefits and in 2002 the company offered to pay for employee’s sex-change operations.
When HRC originally presented Blankfein with its Corporate Equality Award at a dinner in February at the Waldorf-Astoria, it set off howls of protest from activists. In the Occupy Wall Street movement, perhaps no corporation has stood as much for what protesters see as the cynical manipulations of the "1%" as Goldman, the most powerful investment banking house in the country.
A group called the Queer Caucus demonstrating outside the Waldorf summed up Occupy’s trouble with "Goldman Sachs in a time of financial collapse caused by their unethical business practices and greed, and deplores the use of our cause and suffering for corporate public relations," according to a release. "HRC honoring Goldman Sachs at this time reveals all one needs to know about the corporate LGBT lobby, and its disconnect from the 99% and the LGBT people it purports to represent."
Goldman Sachs became the Wall Street poster child to many for the ills that resulted in the 2008 recession when Rolling Stone reporter Matt Taibbi wrote a scathing indictment of the firm’s practices in which he described the company as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."
The firm received a very public black eye in March, when a disgruntled executive director resigned from Goldman in the op-ed pages of the New York Times. He accused bankers there of putting the needs of their clients -- whom he said they derisively called "muppets" -- far behind making profits for the managing partners.
The controversy between HRC and Goldman, on one end, and the Occupy forces and those who believe that mega-banks have become super-national entities unto themselves will probably not end soon. Will Blankfein’s claiming that the banks has lost business because of its -- and his -- upfront stand mollify critics? Or will they counter that Goldman may well have attracted other clients.
In a sense, this discussion mirrors the much larger one taking place everywhere. As the gay rights movement matures and becomes more mainstream, has it lost the broader picture of social injustice? Or did gay men and lesbians always keep their eyes narrowly on the prize, as the civil rights phrase has it?