NEW YORK — Inside its 43-story headquarters in Manhattan, there is plenty for Goldman Sachs executives to celebrate. The bank earned a more than $7 billion profit last year and its stock price is up 30 percent since Donald Trump was elected president.
If Trump follows through with plans to dismantle regulations put in place by the Obama administration to rein in Wall Street, Goldman Sachs could see its profits continue to soar, industry analysts say.
But a few feet outside of the company’s headquarters, dozens of demonstrators have set up camp, promising to stay until Trump’s inauguration on Friday. Trump has picked several Goldman Sachs alums for key positions in his administration, including Treasury secretary, protesters say, giving the prestigious bank too much influence over the way the government is run.
Trump may have lambasted Hillary Clinton’s connection to the bank during the presidential campaign and promised to “drain the swamp,” but he is relying on Goldman Sachs to fill some of his top economic jobs, the protesters say.
“They are spreading their Goldman dust all over the government,” said Vaughn Armour, 66, who was among about those at the Wednesday afternoon protest, organized by the New York Community for Change and the Resist Trump movement.
After spending years attempting to burnish its public image after the 2008 financial crisis, Goldman Sachs is the target of protesters once again. It presents a tricky dilemma for the 148-year old bank: How to take advantage of a new, less adversarial attitude towards Wall Street likely to bubble through Washington during Trump’s presidency, while not becoming the focus of lingering populist anger at big banks.
“We respect every individual’s rights to assembly and free speech in accordance with laws,” the bank said in a statement.
Goldman Sachs is best known as a secretive, Wall Street dealmaker with the ear of the White House, dating back to 1914 when a Goldman executive advised federal officials on the creation of the Federal Reserve banking system.
The flow of Goldman executives into high-level government jobs is part of a long tradition with the bank that emphasizes public service, company officials say. Gary Cohn, who was until recently Goldman’s president, is slated to lead the president’s powerful National Economic Council, while Anthony Scaramucci, who began his career at the New York bank before diving into the hedge fund world, is to coordinate the administration’s engagement with the U.S. business and political community. Dina Powell, who led Goldman Sachs’ largest charity efforts, is set to join the Trump White House as a senior counselor for economic initiatives.
Steve Mnuchin, a 17-year veteran of the bank, has been nominated to be Treasury secretary and is scheduled to appear before Senate committee Thursday. Democrats are preparing to quiz Mnuchin on his ties to the bank among other issues.
Goldman Sachs executives say they gain no advantage by having so many alums in high-level government jobs. “It’s an imprimatur on our firm that we have such good people that the administration wants to hire them,” Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman long-time chief executive, said in a recent interview with The New York Times.
“The perception that they’ll go to Washington and then favor us is false. The reverse is true. They’ll bend over backwards to avoid that. They’re not going to serve the interests of Goldman Sachs. They have their own careers and reputations to worry about.”
That is not enough for protesters, such as Artoria Cunnings, 71, who spent hours in near freezing temperatures holding a “Government Sachs” banner. “Goldman Sachs is like Donald Trump’s boss,” she said.
Even while trumpeting its better-than-expected financial performance to industry analysts earlier this week, Goldman Sachs executives could not escape being reminded about its new high-level connections.
“Maybe some of your ex colleagues can send some more tweets and increase activity levels,” said Glenn Schorr, an analyst at Evercore. “Kidding.”