Forget The 'Vampire Squid' — Goldman Sachs Made An Incredible Comeback In 2012

Goldman Alley

Photo: Julia La Roche for Business Insider

Almost everyone loves to hate on Goldman Sachs, a.k.a the “Vampire Squid”.Goldman’s image and that of its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, have been bruised by the criticism they have received over the bank’s role in the financial crisis as well as the hefty compensation packages.

It’s been a rough last three years.

However, we’ve noticed that Goldman and Blankfein have made quite a comeback in the last year in terms of boosting their public image.  

Click to see Goldman’s best moments >

While other big banks that have seen the whale trade, the LIBOR and money laundering scandals, Goldman has avoided all of that making them look much better by comparison.

At one point back in May, following the London Whale trading loss, JPMorgan’s brand perception dipped making it the most negatively viewed bank on Wall Street — a spot normally held by Goldman, according to YouGov BrandIndex.  

Of course, we’ll get a more accurate read in January on how Goldman’s brand perception did in 2012 when YouGov releases that data. 

It appears to us, though, that Goldman has had several bright spots in 2012.  

Of course, that’s not to say the bank isn’t dealing with legal issues.  It still is.  And the bank has only delivered an 8.8% return on common shareholder equity in the first three quarters of 2012 compared to 19.2% in the same period in 2009, according to Bloomberg News. 

All that aside, the bank is still making steps in the right direction. 

It's been an awful year for the financial industry in terms of scandals.

We've had the London Whale, the LIBOR scandal, insider trading and money laundering.

Goldman has avoided all this and looks much better by comparison.

A lot of other big banks on the Street had to pay big fines and settlements this year. Not Goldman.

Reuters' Ben Walsh, formerly a writer for Clusterstock, put together a massive rundown of investigations, lawsuits and fines the big banks faced this year.

Scanning this list, it's clear that Goldman wasn't really singled out for being the worst on the Street.

Goldman is facing an ongoing FHFA fraud case and a class action lawsuit over MBS going forward, the list shows.

We also have to point out that Goldman was also ordered to pay $1.5 million civil penalty by the CFTC earlier this month for failing to supervise a trader who hid a $8.3 billion position in 2007.

In 2012, Goldman hired a new PR chief with a major Washington, D.C. pedigree.

On March 13, Goldman said it had hired Jake Siewert, a former Tim Geithner aide and Clinton administration press secretary, as its new PR chief.

He's been tasked with turning around Goldman's image.

Source: DealBook

During Siewert's first week, Greg Smith's infamous New York Times op-ed came out.

On March 14, 2012, Greg Smith, a now former Goldman vice president, resigned publicly via a scathing op-ed in the New York Times that ripped into the bank's culture calling it 'toxic.'

In the op-ed, Smith claimed that senior level bank employees referred to their clients as 'muppets' in internal emails.

Goldman handled the Greg Smith op-ed PR debacle well.

Smith's book 'Why I Left Goldman Sachs' came out it ended up being a disappointment. There were no really crazy revelations that showed the excesses of Wall Street.

Our CEO and editor-in-chief Henry Bloget even said that Smith's tell-all 'may be the best PR coup in history for Goldman Sachs.'

Goldman also got back at the New York Times with a clever jab.

Also, here's what Goldman tweeted when the New York Times, which ran Smith's op-ed, reviewed the book, 'For the latest take on the GS VP they made famous, click here...'

That somewhat passive aggressive Tweet was retweeted 43 times.

The whole 'muppetgate' thing fizzled out. A massive investigation revealed at Goldmanites are really into the actual Muppets.

Apparently Goldmanites really enjoyed the latest Muppet movie.

According to the Financial Times, the internal investigation dubbed the 'muppet hunt' found 4,000 'muppet' references, but 99% of them were referring to the latest movie.

Another win for Goldman.

Source: Financial Times

Mayor Bloomberg showed his support for Goldman after the Smith op-ed.

New York City Mayor Bloomberg visited the bank's 200 West Street headquarters and gave some pep talks to employees on the various floors.

Afterwards, he went to Shake Shack to grab some burgers with Blankfein.

Source: New York Post

Goldman opened up more when it joined Twitter this year.

The bank Tweeted for the first time back in May.

Since then, the bank has basically mastered Twittersphere.

The bank's internal Tweeter, who we will not name (yet), has done a phenomenal job posting pictures of Goldmanites and story links.

Goldman's Twitter account has more than 31,000 followers.

Goldman Sachs became more proactive about media.

Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein made television appearances (Bloomberg TV, CNBC and CBS '60 Minutes) and he spoke at conferences during the last year.

'I think partly we've gone out more... We started from scratch. Nobody knew who we were, nobody knew what we did. Shame on us in hindsight. We let other people define us. People didn't really know what we did and the value that we contributed to growth and the economy and job creation. We were slow of the mark because we just hadn't really developed that sense,' Blankfein said during the inaugural DealBook conference earlier this month.

Blankfein, who said he used to get his wife to check the newspapers for him, noted that a couple years ago the questions would be about legacy issues as opposed to the future. He said he started reading some of the papers again, too.

Source: DealBook

In 2012, Blankfein wrote some op-eds.

This past year, Blankfein has published op-eds in Politico and the Wall Street Journal on key issues in Washington, D.C. such as reducing the deficit, promoting more skilled immigration, investing in infrastructure and resolving the fiscal cliff.

Blankfein also became really active in the 'fiscal cliff' conversation.

He became active in Washington, D.C. participating in conference calls with the business community and the White House.

He was invited to the White House in November to participate in those fiscal cliff conversations between officials and business leaders.

Source: DealBook

Goldman's CEO emerged as an advocate for same-sex marriage.

In February, Blankfein became a national spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign, an organisation that promotes equal rights for the LGBT community.

Source: DealBook

When Hurricane Sandy churned up the eastern seaboard, the lights at Goldman Sachs remained bright.

No, they didn't have a magical generator.

Goldman's 200 West Street headquarters happened to be on an electric oasis.

Source: Dealbook

They shared their power with their neighbourhood.

Immediately following the storm, Goldman opened its headquarters to the Battery Park City neighbourhood offering bottled water and electrical outlets for people to charge their phones.

The bank pledged millions to help with hurricane relief efforts and several employees volunteered in the surrounding area.

Following Hurricane Sandy, Goldman pledged $10 million in relief funds consisting of a $5 million donation to clean up and recovery efforts and $5 million in loans to small businesses impacted the storm.

The bank's employees participated in relief projects in New Jersey, Staten Island and The Rockaways packaging boxes of food and supplies and gutting out flood-damaged houses.

Even Blankfein showed up for the relief efforts.

Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who was photographed wearing jeans and a t-shirt, participated in the clean-up efforts in the Rockaways.

'He got after it. He got filthy dirty. He got down to his undershirt, it was soaked through with sweat. He was refusing to take breaks. He was refusing to take water and everything. He was throwing around the heavy stuff. He definitely didn't shy away,' Jake Wood, the co-founder of Team Rubicon, told Business Insider in an interview last month.

Goldman's CEO also showed a more relaxed and funny side.

That's Blankfein cracking up to Adam Sandler's rendition of 'Hallelujah' from the Robin Hood 12.12.12 benefit concert for Sandy relief.

During conferences, we noticed that he would get the audience to laugh at his jokes.

Financial stocks in general had a great year. Goldman is up more than 32% this year outperforming the S&P 500.

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