Goldman Sachs. There isn't much left to say that would be wildly groundbreaking about a certain breach of trust with their investors, their clients, and the public. Except one thing: Their continued belief that "Integrity and honesty are at the heart of our business" is embarrassing. Don’t take my word for it, I'm just quoting one of their Business Principles, as listed on www.gs.com.
I tuned in today to hear Christine Arena, a corporate strategist and consultant on corporate responsibility discuss Goldman Sachs' latest debacle with former investment banker Jordan Kimmel, who hosts Voice America's show Trust Across America. While the conversation covered the broad spectrum of ethical conduct by companies, transparency and accountability, she made an interesting point regarding perception in the Goldman Sachs vs. SEC case that addresses the core of how the bank's image as a corporate titan as well as an elite banking firm continues to be dirtied as the spectacle unfolds bit by bit, hearing by hearing.
Here's how she sees it: With the bank and its erstwhile leader continuing to talk up their emphasis on "integrity" and "trust," it is hurting its own image by not realizing that public perception is shifting in the wrong direction. Vault.com's Finance Editor Derek Loosvelt recently asked, "Goldman Sachs Accused of Fraud: God's Work or the Devil's Business?" Subsequently, we conducted a poll on Vault.com asking whether this case affects potential Goldman candidates' preference to work for the bank, and the results were emphatic. While the large majority was willing to overlook this episode, over a quarter of respondents said the case would affect their willingness to work at Goldman. Bringing me back to the original question: How can there be such a wide disconnect between the bank's perception of its own repute, and the public perception?
As Christine suggested, now might be the right time for Lloyd Blankfein and his team to conduct some serious damage control to retain their "Most Admired" image.(Read: Goldman Glows, Citi Sleeps: Fortune Ranks our Favorite Companies) A good place to start would be to engage their stakeholders and start listening to what they might have to say. Ethical misconduct doesn't come easy, but once it's out in the open, it'll remain search-able for a long time. In her own words: "If you are perceived as someone who isn't listening, you're as good as dead."
Some might call the case a witchhunt though. What do you think? Do you disagree with the poll results or is this really a big f%$^&** deal? Weigh in by leaving a comment, emailing In Good Company or connecting with me on Twitter @VaultCSR!