Goldman Sachs: Give me my money back!

I’ve been clipping articles the last couple of months from  the Wall Street journal, the Washington Post, and other sources ever since I first heard about the “10,000 Small Businesses” initiative from Goldman Sachs last November. 

At first I thought, “what a nice gesture!”  God knows we can use the money.

$500 million (2) to help small business. 

According to the Washington Post, it first involves funneling $300 million (2) to so-called community development financial institutions.  Let me do the math – $300 million divided by 10,000 – that’s $30,000 on average to each of the 10,000 businesses to be helped.  

Excuse me if I don’t do backflips of joy.  

Then I discover that Goldman Sachs made $3.44 billion (1) in profits the 3rd quarter of 2009.  That’s about $35 million a day for a 91 day quarter.  Hmm.  So they are offering less than 10 days of profits.  Over 5 years. 

Excuse me while I stifle a yawn. 

Then  I read in the Wall Street Journal that the average compensation in 2009 will be over $700,000 (3) per person, including temps and sub-contractors.  The AVERAGE.  That’s up from $364,000 (3) the year before. 

OK, now you’ve got my attention. 

A few days later, that estimate is upped to $800,000 (4).  That is an increase of $436,000, or let’s say $440,000  rounded to the nearest 10 thousand.  $440,000.  

Remember that number. 

I start to put bits and pieces together.  The WSJ reports that “Goldman received $14 billion (5) for its trades that were torn up, including $8.4 billion (5) in collateral from AIG.”  Near as I can tell, Goldman claims 31,700 (8) employees.  That $14 billion (5) in corporate welfare equates to $441,640 per employee – or $440,000 to the nearest 10 thousand.  

I am not making this stuff up. 

My blood is starting to boil.  What about that $3,155 (9) per employee per year set aside for the “10,000 Small Businesses” initiative? (that’s right – zero when rounded to the nearest 10 thousand). 

$200 million (2) is for education.  And mentoring.  With some Goldman employees doing the mentoring. 

Say what?  

You’re going to tell us how to run our businesses?  

Mr. know-it-all investment bankers? 

The same ones who bought and sold highly complex derivatives based on valuations and projections from highly complex financial models developed by highly compensated quants who were probably high at the time. 

Look, I know a thing or two about financial models, and how fragile they can be, and sensitive to assumptions which often go un-disclosed to the users of the model output.  

And you guys bet real money on this shit?  

And wonder why we almost had a financial meltdown?!  And expect us, the taxpayers to cover your losses?! 

And now you want to educate us about how to run our businesses?  Well, Goldman Sachs, here’s a message from this small businessman: you can kiss my big, fat, ugly small business ass!!!! 

You know, what really pisses me off is that the big companies mess up royally and get bailed out, while we small guys don’t even have a voice.  We don’t get a place at the table when stimulus plans are crafted, or programs created that are supposed to help us.  We need some recognition that as the financial performance of small business goes, so goes the health of the economy.  So goddamn it, no more excuses.  This is not just about us. For the sake of the country, YOU cannot afford to muck this up! 

Goddamnit, it’s time to listen to me and the millions of entrepreneurs like me who toil in the trenches, account for all the job growth (6) in this country, yet still struggle to survive.  A second year in a row at $364,000 (3) in average compensation is not what I call a struggle to survive. 

Let’s get back to Goldman.  It is time to trash the wimpy Obama bank liability tax, which was long on rhetoric, short on pain to the banks – hence the stock market non-reaction.  According to USA Today, Goldman would have to pay $1.2 billion (7) a year in additional taxes. Or only $37,855 per employee. 

I say we claw back the full $14 billion (5) right here, right now.  It’s one thing to save the financial system from meltdown, but I’ll be god-damned if I’m going to allow my hard earned tax dollars be used to fund an increase in compensation of $440,000 per person. 

I’m  a businessman.  When I don’t make profits, I don’t pay bonuses.  Someone needs to explain that concept to Goldman Sachs.  

I’ve decided to start a petition drive to pressure Congress to act, and Goldman Sachs to do the right thing. 

Here is the text:

 Goldman Sachs Corporate Welfare Disgorgement Drive

“We, the undersigned, feel that it is grossly unfair for Goldman Sachs to benefit from the AIG bailout, and demand that this undeserved corporate welfare in the amount of $14 billion be returned to the Treasury immediately.” 

Here is the link if you’d like to show your support:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/gs-disgorge/

Citations

 

1. Goldman Sachs profits crush estimates

CNN.Com/World Business,  Ocotber 16, 2009 

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/BUSINESS/10/15/goldman.sachs.profits.ft/index.html 

2. Goldman Sachs, Buffett team to empower small businesses 

Washington Post,  November 18, 2009 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/17/AR2009111703983.html 

3. Goldman Seizes the Offensive on Pay

Shareholder Input Sought to Head Off Backlash Over Average Compensation of $700,000; Proxy Push

 Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2009 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748703735004574572363440861826.html 

4. Goldman Blinks on Bonuses

Top Executives to Forgo Their Cash Awards in Bid to Stamp Out Furor Over Pay 

Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2009 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703514404574587983288950014.html 

5. Goldman Fueled AIG Gambles

Wall Street Titan’s Role Shown in Journal Study; Firm Says Problems Hidden 

Wall Street Journal, December 12-13, 2009 

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704201404574590453176996032.html

6. Robert Samuelson: ‘Can-do’ vs. ‘stand-pat’

Entrepreneurs could be the key to recovery 

Washington Post, January 4, 2010

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/03/AR2010010301810.html 

7. Bank tax proposal doesn’t hurt stocks

Administration wants $90B to help buttress overall system 

USA Today, January 15, 2010 

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/banking/2010-01-14-bank-bailout-tax-stocks_N.htm  

8. Goldman Sachs 

Wikipedia,  January 21, 2010 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldman_Sachs 

 9. $500 million over 5 years is $100 million per year.  Divided by 31,700 gives the $3,155 per employee per year,

 

 

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In defense of business

During one of my early morning breaks from the computer,  I read the Schumpeter column in the Economist (12/19/2009), and found that I strongly agreed with the point they were trying to make.

They start with a quote from the obscure (maybe not to their learned audience – but to me) Henry Hazlitt, “one of the great popularizers of free-market thinking, who once said that good ideas have to be relearned in every generation.”

They were referring to the fact thay they thought business was a good idea, and that the current generation seems to be losing sight of that.

They lament that “critics of business dominate the discussion of corporate morality,” and go on to say “For all too many people it is taken as a given that companies promote greed, crush creativity, and monopolise power.”

(Excuse the spelling – they are British, after all).

They offered three arguments:

“The first is that business is a remarkable exercise in co-operation..  It is worth remembering that that the word ‘company’ is derived from the Latin words ‘cum’ and ‘pane’ – meaning ‘breaking bread together’. ”

I didn’t realize the derivation of company – but how true is that.  It is all about gaining co-operation and building trust – among employees, suppliers, customers, lenders, and sometimes the public at large.

The Economist continues, “Another rejoinder is that business is an exercise in creativity.”

These guys are so on-target.  I see it every day in my business, in my industry, and in my customers’ businesses.  People constantly experimenting with new processes, new products, new techniques in a continuous quest for improvement.

The third one is one I never thought of, but leave it to the editors of the Economist to come up with this:

“A third defence is that business helps maintain political pluralism.”  You’re excused for a quick run to the dictionary.  Basically it is a good thing.  I think it means tolerance of diversity in democracy.  The majority rules, but the rights of all are protected.

“Companies have a difficult enough job staying alive , let alone engaging in a ‘silent takeover’ of the state.”

Amen to that!

“Only 202 of the 500 biggest companies in America in 1980 were will still in existence 20 years later.  Anti-capitalists actually have it upside down.  Companies actually prevent each other from gaining too much power, and also act as a check on the governements that would otherwise be running the economy.  The proportion of the world’s governments has increased from 40% in 1980, when the pro-business revolution began, to more than 60% today.”

They conclude by exhorting us hard-headed business people to take a few minutes from our busy days to stick up for ourselves, and make these arguments.

“.. the price of silence will be an ever more hostile public and ever more overbearing government.”

Count me in.

Here is their website: www.economist.com