Simon English: Blankfein's blitz on company emails could well come back to bite him
Friday 23 March 2012
Outlook Are Lloyd Blankfein's private emails soon to become public property? News that Goldman Sachs is scouring its own staff's email's for evidence that they referred to clients as muppets mean that it can't be ruled out.
The chief executive of the respected investment bank/vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity (as you prefer) intends that by taking this action he can clean his company's image a little.
The great muppet hunt will see Goldman bankers' and traders' privacy invaded more than a little.
Mr Blankfein wants to be able to report back that having read a hundred-thousand emails sent by staff he can confirm that the bank is of the highest integrity. Employees are as urbanely sophisticated as you'd expect. None of us ever called a client a muppet. Apart from Jim Henson, but then he did create the Muppets (his family used to take Goldman's investment advice).
Even if this happy outcome occurs, what happens next may be a touch awkward.
Once Goldman has completed its search and professed its innocence of all crimes, it's not much of a step for an ambitious US attorney general to subpoena the bank to actually see the emails.
Goldman emails have become public as a result of legal cases more than once lately.
Emails released in 2010 revealed that the bank bet against mortgage securities similar to those it had sold to clients. It might have been perfectly logical to do so, but it looked bad.
By attempting to look like it is taking seriously the claims of former employee Greg Smith (he made the original muppet claim in an article last week) it opens itself up to all sorts of other potential problems.
If staff emails can be read and then perhaps made public, why can't Mr Blankfein's? All of them.
The chief squid may come to regret delving into the email musings of staff and letting it be known that he is so doing. Not that he himself has anything to hide of course.
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