At least four Goldman Sachs executives flew into Japan last week to speak with nervous ex-pat employees about radiation fears, according to a person familiar with the situation. They also conveyed another message: don’t leave Japan and don’t leave Tokyo.
Employees at the investment bank’s Japan offices are worried about radiation levels affecting their families, the person said. Many were asking if they could temporarily relocate out of the country or perhaps move to a location in southern Japan, farther away from troubled nuclear power plants. The were told that they should not leave Tokyo, according to the person.
Several meetings were held last week between senior Goldman executives and Tokyo-based employees. At least one meeting was held in a large conference room on one of the five floors of the Mori Tower in Tokyo, which houses Goldman’s offices in Japan. Senior executives attending the meeting included Michael Evans, the firm’s head of emerging markets and Asia chairman, and Ed Forst, the co-head of Goldman’s investment management division. Lloyd Blankfein was testifying in the insider-trading case against Raj Rajaratnam last week.
“The message was clear: no one is to leave. If you do leave, you can’t come back and expect to still work for Goldman,” the person said.
The reaction has been mixed. Some employees praised the level of information about radiation levels and safety the firm has communicated to them. Others objected to the instructions to stay put.
“I get that they’re trying to send a ‘business as usual’ message to Japan and rally the troops, but some times the party line asks too much,” a source in the Tokyo office said.
Some employees have decided to relocate their families, the person said. Radiation can be more harmful to children, pregnant women and unborn children.
The orders to stay put seem to have been effective. Another person at Goldman’s Tokyo offices said that almost everyone was still in place.
Financial firms have had divergent reactions to the nuclear crisis in Japan. The private equity giant Blackstone reportedly relocated its office to Hong Kong, as did French bank BNP Paribas. Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and other American banks have reportedly decided not to relocate.
Immediately following the earthquake, Goldman and Morgan Stanley closed their offices. Many workers at Goldman, however, stayed at work—some sleeping there overnight—because transportation was disrupted.
Goldman could not be reached for comment.