Goldman Board Plan Shields Its Ferries From Foreign Label

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the owner of two passenger ferries, boosted the number of board members needed to constitute a quorum at meetings to comply with a maritime law enacted almost a century ago.

The bank requires that a majority of directors attend board meetings, rather than the half needed previously, the company said yesterday in a regulatory filing. Goldman Sachs has 12 board members, meaning seven are needed for a quorum.

The change took effect May 22 and keeps the New York-based firm in compliance with laws that restrict the transportation of passengers between U.S. ports to vessels owned by U.S. citizens and are designed to limit foreign influence over the nation’s ships. Goldman Sachs owns the York and the Jersey, ferries that began operating this year to shuttle employees and the public between Manhattan and New Jersey.

U.S. law defines corporations as U.S. citizens with respect to registering ships only if foreign nationals comprise less than half the board’s quorum. Three of Goldman Sachs’s 12 directors fit that description: Claes Dahlback of Sweden, Lakshmi Mittal of India, and Mark Tucker of the U.K. That prompted Goldman Sachs to change its bylaws, said a person briefed on the decision, who requested anonymity because the company’s deliberations were private.

The ferries help employees commute between the bank’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan and its offices across the Hudson River in Jersey City.

“While we certainly want to create a comfortable environment for employees and anyone else who uses the ferry, our primary considerations when purchasing these new boats were about the environmental and efficiency aspects, the noise aspects, as well as being a good neighbor,” Tiffany Galvin, a Goldman Sachs spokeswoman, told Bloomberg Businessweek earlier this year.

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