Offering humorous quips and reflecting on his always challenging role as chair and CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein ’78 discussed his company, regulation and the state of the economy, as part of a question-and-answer session with Dean Martha Minow during Reunions Weekend in October.
Minow noted Blankfein’s humble roots (while growing up in Brooklyn, he sold concessions at Yankee Stadium) before his rise to become the head of one of the most prominent global investment banking firms, where he has worked for more than 30 years. Even though he has not practiced law since a few years as a tax attorney shortly after graduating from HLS, his legal education helped him better understand markets and manage large groups of people, he said.
On the economy, he said growth is better than it seems, though concern is still prevalent. “Of all the places in the world,” he said, “the U.S. is probably best positioned right now and actually well positioned.”
Minow also asked Blankfein about criticism of Goldman Sachs and the rest of Wall Street in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, including by Congress. He said the criticism helped him develop a thick skin, while acknowledging that “it was the worst kind of attention.” In response to the crisis, he said financial institutions needed to hold more capital and be more transparent, though certain regulation was “redundant” and moving “too fast.” Drawing laughter, he added, “I’m fatalist [enough] to know that if I were to become CEO, of course it was going to be in the biggest financial crisis in a million years.”
Minow pointed out that several of his recent predecessors at Goldman Sachs went on to government positions. Blankfein responded that another predecessor died at his desk. That option, he said, “is also available.”