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Simon English: Memo to Goldman Sachs: This is (partly) why people hate you


The great vampire squid’s move to even consider delaying bonus payments to some of its staff just to save them a few quid in tax indicates that it continues to live in a separate world to the rest of us.

More than that, it lives in a world beyond even most other powerful banks. Early reports on the matter said that other large finance firms had wondered whether they should wait for the tax rate to drop from 50% to 45% before paying out bonuses and quickly decided that it would look bad.

That’s a move forward, for an industry that has persistently decided that following the law is all that can be expected of it; actually doing the right thing is not in its remit.

Meanwhile Goldman is still considering whether to do something bound to attract criticism in order to save some of its top staff an amount of money smaller than those people spend on tax planning each year in the first place.

They will then moan, internally at least, about that criticism.

A while ago, Goldman earnt itself a fawning front page story in the Financial Times as it unveiled plans, in the wake of being called, to general approval, “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity”, to turn over a new leaf.

It would put clients first. It would care how it was perceived. It would see that swanning about the place pointing to your riches as confirmation of just how brilliant you are (and therefore deserving of the riches) was annoying to nearly everyone who didn’t work at Goldman Sachs.

Perhaps the bank even meant it when it said it, but plainly this desire to do God’s work didn’t last long. The wider context is huge public fury at the ability of large corporations and rich individuals to skirt rules that apply steadfastly to everyone else.

Goldman Sachs might say that it attracts more attention than almost anyone else when these issues arise.

That it still can’t see why is somewhere close to comic.