Goldman shareholder ends meeting with a thank-you to Blankfein
UPDATE 12:40 p.m.:The final speaker of the day is the head of a nonprofit in the city that helps at-risk juveniles get quality education. She thanks Goldman for its support and Blankfein thanks her for "all that you do."
On that warm note, the meeting is adjourned. Blankfein shakes a few hands, and looks ready to head out, but is stopped by a shareholder. Again he tries to leave but is stopped by another shareholder. He shakes hands. And he is gone.
Goldman shareholder finally asks Blankfein about SEC charges
UPDATE 12:37 p.m.: Before the voting results were announced, Blankfein got a question from an individual shareholder: I came here to ask you one question -- has all this stuff that's been going on lately affected our business?
Blankfein: Always hard to tell. But It feels like on the whole, our business has held up quite well, due to the support we have gotten from our clients who have been loyal and enthusiastic. I know people don't like to read about their advisers in any context, let alone in the kind of headlines we've had lately.
Each of the 11 director nominees have received more than 95 percent of shares present.
Goldman shareholders' proposals fail
UPDATE 12:32 p.m.: About 1 in 5 Goldman shareholders vote for Chairman-CEO split.
The Q&A session is interrupted to announce the results of the shareholder votes. Bottom line: all five of the management proposals pass, all seven of the shareholder proposals fail.
But some of the shareholder proposals get quite a lot of votes. A shareholder proposal regarding cumulative voting gets 25 percent of vote. Another on over the country derivatives trading gets 34 percent. And a shareholder proposal to split the roles of chairman and chief executive -- currently Blankfein holds both titles-- receives 19 percent of the vote.
Another on executive compensation and long-term performance gets 25 percent.
Goldman's Blankfein draws laughs as he discusses pay disparity
UPDATE 12:09 p.m.: Next up is discussion on a shareholder proposal on pay disparity.
One young shareholder - he says he graduated from UPenn last year - is up. He speaks talks about the importance of pay and retaining talent. He speaks of going through the on-campus recruiting process and "dreaming" about one day sitting up there on stage with the firm's top executives.
"Some of the people there are dreaming of sitting over there," says Blankfein, gesturing first to Viniar, his CFO, and Greg Palm, the general counsel, and then gesturing to where the young man is sitting.
Blankfein gets another round of laughter.
Goldman shareholders raise questions about political contributions
UPDATE 11:45 a.m.: Another shareholder question is about requiring Goldman to make a report of political contributions beyond what is already required by the FEC.
Wall Street firms have received criticism, including from President Obama, about intense lobbying against aspects of the regulatory reform bill now being debated in Congress. Blankfein says Washington has been asking the firm to come down and "educate" lawmakers on the financial system and rules, and that it is the firm's right and duty to do so.
In an understatement, Blankfein adds that the recent marathon hearing in Washington before a Senate subcommittee was "not the most comfortable moment" in his life. Some laughter.
The hearing of course, was on the SEC civil fraud charges, which have been vigorously denied by the firm. So far into the meeting, no one has explicitly raised the SEC charges. But perhaps it will come up in the general question and answer period later.
Blankfein: Should he keep both chief executive and chairman posts?
UPDATE 11:30 am: One of the seven shareholder proposals up for a vote - and the most closely watched - is splitting the role of chairman and CEO. Corporate governance groups generally agree this is good practice. Last year, Ken Lewis, former head of Bank of America, was forced to give up his chairmanship after a shareholder vote.
Several shareholders get up to express support for the proposal. One gets up and notes Blankfein's leadership and Goldman's blockbuster profitability.
"He is doing a very good job. Goldman Sachs is doing very well for shareholders."
The crowd breaks out into applause. Blankfein is smiling. We will get the outcome of the voting later today.
Goldman's Blankfein tells supportive shareholder: You're not being helpful
UPDATE 11:00 am:
A shareholder takes the mic, saying he is disgusted by the liberal leftist commentary attacking Goldman, including religious leaders who have spoken so far at the meeting. He also mentions the Catholic church scandal.
Blankfein says, let's stick to the matters at hand.
Shareholder: "I just want to be supportive of the management."
Blankfein: "If you want to be supportive, you're not being helpful."
Perhaps Blankfein is getting hungry for lunch, but some may question his wisdom in shutting down one of the few shareholders expressing unfettered support for the firm here at the meeting.
Goldman by the numbers
UPDATE 10:40 a.m.: In response to a shareholder questions, Goldman says it has about 250 in-house full time lawyers, up by a few lawyers from the year before. The firm, which is also facing a number of shareholder lawsuits in addition to the SEC lawsuit, spent $593 million in legal fees, roughly half of it on outside counsel.
Blankfein Likes Shopping at Wal-Mart
UPDATE 10:30 a.m.: Evelyn Y. Davis is up at the podium again. She is asking about lobbying expenses, and after some rambling, suggests Blankfein and his wife likely don't shop at Wal-Mart.
"Actually, I like shopping at Wal-Mart," says Blankfein, managing to get a few words in edgewise.
Board diversity questioned
UPDATE 10:20 a.m.: Timothy Smith of Walden Asset Management, an activist shareholder on social issues, asks about board diversity.
Blankfein acknowledges the board looks "less diverse than we did a few weeks ago," a likely reference to Ruth Simmons, of Brown University, who is resigning from the board.
Quiet plea from Jesse Jackson
UPDATE 10:15 a.m.: Blankfein is his usual soft-spoken self as he responds to comments from Jesse Jackson, who stood patiently in line for his turn to speak.
Jackson is quietly expressing his concern about the gap in the health of Wall Street versus Main Street. He wants more Main Street representation on the board. Blankfein, equally soft-spoken and dressed in a dark suit with red tie, says Goldman's health is intricately tied to overall performance of the economy.
Gadfly investor Evelyn Y. Davis takes the podium
UPDATE 9:50 a.m.: After a brief presentation by David Viniar, the chief financial officer, the floor is opened to shareholder comments. First up is Evelyn Y. Davis, the shareholder gadfly who is a fixture at these meetings.
She says the situation Goldman finds itself in now would "never have happened if Hank were still here."
Hank, of course, refers to Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary and former CEO of Goldman. Davis gets right to the point, saying she is voting against all of the directors and telling Blankfein he has until Monday to tender his resignation.
"Evelyn, I have no current plans to step down Monday," Blankfein says.
Goldman has set up Business Standards Committee
UPDATE 9:45 a.m.: Blankfein promises a comprehensive review of all of Goldman's businesses, saying the firm has established a Business Standards Committee to do this.
Shareholder meeting gets underway with protesters outside
UPDATE: 9:33 a.m. So here we are at the Goldman shareholders meeting in southernmost tip of Lower Manhattan. Security is tight.
Outside, there are almost as many police officers as protesters. About two dozen are holding up signs such as "Transparency Now" and "Stop hiding the Money."
Inside, the meeting has just been called to order by chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, who is introducing directors, senior management and auditor.
8:22 a.m.: Goldman Sachs, the embattled New York investment bank, is hosting its annual shareholder meeting this morning. Executives are expected to face questioning from shareholders on a range of issues, including the firm's compensation practice, its actions during the financial crisis and of course, the fraud charges filed against the firm by the Securities and Exchange Commission. We'll be live blogging the event shortly before the meeting begins at 9:30 a.m. in Lower Manhattan.
-Tomoeh Murakami Tse
May 7, 2010; 12:42 PM ET
Categories: Wall Street
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