WASHINGTON – Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs has a long list of alumni who have gone onto government service, and it looks like it's about to give up one more of its protégés with the nomination of Chairman and CEO Henry M. Paulson Jr. to head the Treasury Department.
The move won't be uncommon for Goldman Sachs employees. At least among its financial competitors, Goldman Sachs appears to be head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to putting former employees into the halls of government. For years, résumés around Washington have sported the company name, and those with the job experience have gone on to positions as Cabinet officials, agency analysts, advisory board members and even U.S. lawmakers.
"I don't know of any other company in the United States who has quite this tradition. Certainly not on Wall Street," said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning Washington, D.C., think tank.
With the ease of an Internet search, it's easy to cobble together a list of Goldman Sachs current and former executives, partners and board members who have moved on to serve in the public sector. Most of the job posts involve economics, but some have broadened their professional portfolios by serving in an array of other government policy positions.
A the top of the list are names like New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Corzine was CEO of the brokerage before he won a Senate seat in 2000. Until taking up work with the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2000, Bolten was executive director for legal and government affairs at Goldman Sachs International in London. Rubin was co-chairman of Goldman Sachs until 1992, when he was confirmed for his Cabinet seat in the Clinton administration.
But company officials have filled in heavy-lifting posts in less visible areas, too.
The Goldman Sachs' alumni who have served in government include Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick; former president and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States Kenneth D. Brody; chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and former director of the National Economic Council Stephen Friedman; Reagan Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead; and Reagan Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Robert Hormats. Goldman Sachs' graduate James Johnson served as president and CEO of quasi-government housing lender Fannie Mae.
Part of the reason for such prominent roles might be due to a corporate culture that pushes it. A letter to the company's investors accompanying the 2005 annual report notes that "Goldman Sachs has a long tradition of public service. Many of our people have gone on to significant positions in government and the not-for-profit sector and their achievements are a source of pride for all of us."
Goldman Sachs representatives did not return phone calls to discuss the issue, but other observers say the corporate culture both pushes public service and attracts those interested in it.
Richard Linowes, a business professor for Kogod School of Business at American University, and a former Goldman Sachs employee, said the job duties of Goldman employees combined with their lucrative salaries, frequently tapped for political donations, make them ripe for the pickings of government service.
"When people make campaign contributions, they're recognized for their support by being put into presidential appointments," Linowes said, adding, "They know how international financial markets work, and they've been part of it. ... They come in with finance expertise.
"You're doing underwriting at Goldman Sachs, you're trying to raise $200 million," he said.
Georgetown University corporate law professor Donald Langevoort cautioned that those looking for a conspiracy behind the link between Goldman Sachs and government service won't likely find one.
"I don't think it necessarily makes them more powerful," Langevoort said. "I think every Wall Street firm has its way of exercising influence in Washington and around the world. Goldman no doubt benefits from its political contacts, but the other firms have their own tools."
Linowes said the culture of Goldman while he was there was collegial, and managers pushed public service in any capacity, even the seemingly dullest work.
"They were always getting people in the firm to do jury duty," he said.
From the people he's kept in touch with, it seems the culture has continued.
"I would assume that now [public service] has become a very attractive recruiting vehicle for this company," Hess said. "Doing good has done well for this company."
"Unlike some other Wall Street firms, Goldman attracts people for whom being a banker isn't the end all and be all of a life's career," Langevoort said.
Hess said that oftentimes workers who take public sector jobs can handle the significant pay cuts. He noted that many of those who reach the top of Goldman Sachs probably do well enough financially that government service won't hurt enough to make a difference to their family budgets.
"There's no need for making any more money, and [when] you reach that level of wealth ... you're basically talking about almost giving it away," Hess said.
Corzine spent much of his personal wealth on both his Senate and governorship campaigns, and Paulson recently transferred $100 million worth of personal stock to a family-connected environmental foundation, according to news reports.
The company does well for itself, too. According to its 2005 financial highlights, the company's total net revenues were $24.7 billion, and net earnings were $5.6 billion. Net earnings rose 24 percent in 2005, the site says, and since 1999, its net revenues have grown by 11 percent per year, twice the national gross domestic product.
Paulson, 60, is the firm's top executive, having started in 1974, and making the rank of partner eight years later. After several promotions, he became chief executive in 1999. His résumé appears to have impressed President Bush, who announced his intent to nominate him on Tuesday.
"He has a lifetime of business experience, he has an intimate knowledge of financial markets, and an ability to explain economic issues in clear terms. He's earned a reputation for candor and integrity. And when he is confirmed by the Senate, he'll be a superb addition to my Cabinet," Bush said in a Rose Garden ceremony with Paulson by his side.
Hess said having the top executive at Goldman Sachs heading up the Treasury Department will likely bring back some of the luster lost under John Snow and Paul O'Neill.
Many policy decisions have been centralized under the White House's roof, taken out of the Pentagon, State Department and others, Hess explained. By hiring Paulson, the White House won't be able to keep him out of major decisions.
"Henry Paulson is a somebody. ... I think that he will be restoring the Treasury portfolio to be the chief administrative economic player," Hess said.
Having former Goldman Sachs executives in government can't be bad for other companies in the highly regulated financial industry, said Alan Reynolds, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian-minded Washington, D.C., think-tank.
"There's absolutely a feeling that if you can get in to see the secretary of the Treasury, it might be good for business," Reynolds said.
Reynolds also pointed to the "revolving door." Though many areas of government are subject to some regulation, government employees often end up in high-level private sector jobs after their government service, usually for a boost in personal wealth. Reynolds said Goldman Sachs has plenty of people previously in government on their payrolls. On top of that, Friedman and Johnson are both now on the company's board of directors and in private sector jobs for other companies.
Langevoort said the broad influence of Goldman Sachs' alumni comes down to know-how: The company, along with the other leading worldwide financial institutions, is revolutionizing financial markets, seeking to break down international barriers to trade while finding new ways to market debt.
The more policymakers there are from that line of thinking the more political heft to fight against broader international trade barriers; and major trade debates such as those with China will be peppered with more free-trade arguments than protectionism, Langevoort said.
"I think what it does is creates a very strong voice for the role of the worldwide capital marketplace," Langevoort said.