Public outcry made us ditch bonus plan, says Goldman Sachs chief

Goldman Sachs' chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, has admitted that media pressure forced the Wall Street bank to drop its plan to save its British employees millions of pounds in bonuses through tax avoidance.

"We were very, very influenced by the press and that's certainly not embarrassing. We have to take account of it," said Mr Blankfein, who was speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

He added: "We are a business that deals with the public. Public opinion is important to us. We can debate certain aspects of it, but it is not a winning game, it's a getting on game."

Goldman Sachs had planned to pay deferred bonuses to its UK staff after 6 April in order to take advantage of the coalition's reduction of the higher rate of income tax from 50p to 45p.

Reports of Goldman's plan, which other UK and US banks operating in Britain had rejected as being too politically toxic, provoked an outcry. Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, described it as "depressing".

Mr Blankfein, who received a $19bn (£12bn) bonus in 2012, insisted to an audience of chief executives and political leaders in the Swiss ski resort that there was nothing morally wrong with what the Wall Street bank had been planning.

"People are allowed to organise their affairs in a way other than to maximise taxes," he said. "People may choose to sell their house in one tax year and not sell it in another, and that wouldn't be criminalised in any sense. It's not even considered to be bad behaviour."

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