NEW YORK — In his annual note to shareholders Thursday, Goldman Sachs' chief executive Lloyd Blankfein acknowledged the controversy sparked by the growing number of the bank's alums who are taking high-ranking jobs in the Trump administration.

“We have been criticized for the fact that some of our colleagues, after long careers at the firm, have moved to work in the public sector. The charge is that Goldman Sachs is able to extract certain advantages that others cannot. In fact, the opposite is true. Those in government bend over backward to avoid any perception of favoritism,” Blankfein said in the letter.

Goldman has a long history of company executives taking government jobs. One of its founders, Henry Goldman, advised on the creation of the Federal Reserve. And Blankfein's five most recent predecessors have taken high-level government jobs after leaving the bank, including Henry Paulson, who served as treasury secretary under President George W. Bush.

And despite lambasting his opponents' connections to the New York bank during the presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly tapped Goldman executives for top jobs. This week, Trump announced that he planned to nominate Goldman Sachs managing director James Donovan to serve as deputy treasury secretary, making him the fifth Goldman veteran to take a senior role in his administration. The Treasury Department is led by another Goldman Sachs alum, Steven Mnuchin.

Goldman chief operating officer Gary Cohn is the director of the White House National Economic Council, and the bank's global head of impact investing, Dina Powell, is the White House’s senior counselor for economic initiatives. Powell's portfolio was recently expanded to include national security strategy. Also, Trump's chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is another Goldman veteran, although he hasn't worked at the firm for a number of years.

“Gary was not the first person from Goldman Sachs to join the government, and we hope and expect that he will not be the last,” Blankfein said. “We are proud of our tradition of leadership and public service and believe it is a core part of our culture. That is why we will continue to encourage our people to contribute to government service if they are fortunate enough to be asked.”

Not everyone is so appreciative of a bank some have dubbed “Government Sachs.” It's connections in Washington have drawn protests outside its headquarters in New York. Several times, protesters have descended into the company's lobby with bullhorns before being kicked out by security.

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