“The combination of this being who I am and what I do and having absolutely no other interests makes me think this is what I’ll be doing for a while,” Blankfein, 58, told Stephanie Ruhle on Bloomberg Television yesterday from the sidelines of Goldman Sachs’s technology conference in San Francisco.
Two former Goldman Sachs chiefs, Henry Paulson and Robert Rubin, served as U.S. Treasury secretaries after leaving the firm. Blankfein said that while he would “love to be wanted” for such a role, “that seems like such a distant hypothetical.”
Blankfein is staying at the fifth-biggest U.S. bank by assets while some of his contemporaries and long-time colleagues opt to retire. Henry Cornell, a vice chairman in Goldman Sachs’s merchant-banking business and one of its architects, is leaving after almost 30 years at the company, according to a memo to employees obtained yesterday. Jim O’Neill, the chairman of the asset-management division who coined the BRIC acronym for the biggest emerging markets a decade ago, is retiring this year.
Blankfein and Goldman Sachs were criticized after the 2008 financial crisis for their role in selling mortgage-backed securities that later lost value. The firm paid $550 million to settle a fraud case brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission over one deal.
“We were certainly near the scene of an accident,” Blankfein said. “The trauma was very recent. There’s going to be a lot of focus on us for a while.”
Blankfein said he’s trying to focus on the future even while recognizing that crisis-related problems may linger.
“I want to spend most of my time leaning forward, trying to finance businesses that will improve the economy,” he said. “I’m not going to outrun the legacy issues.”
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