Will Goldman Sachs Shareholders Ruin the Company?

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Goldman Sachs shareholders are not happy. Citing the bank's soaring earnings, investors are pressuring top management to curb banker bonuses and dole out more to shareholders. The disgruntled parties include Wellington Management, AllianceBernstein and Vanguard Group, who protest the fact that Goldman pays 47% of its revenue to employees. While some business writers are nodding along with the shareholders' complaints, others call it futile, if not foolish. Here's the opinion landscape:

  • Bravo, Investors! says Daniel Indiviglio at The Atlantic: "If I were an investor that would likely annoy me too. After all, Goldman Sachs is a corporation, so it should be rewarding its investors in proportion to its success... For decades Goldman and its Wall Street brethren have been arguing that enormous bonus pools are necessary to retain the best talent. I don't think shareholders are necessarily disagreeing with that maxim here. Instead, they're more concerned with getting those bonus sizes out of the stratosphere, even if only a little closer to earth, so that shareholders can be rewarded in better proportion. Besides, if Goldman's per employee bonus number was reduced a bit, the rest of the Street still wouldn't be able to compete with it's comp numbers, so I highly doubt its talent would have any greener pastures to flee to anyway."
  • Investors Have Limited Options observes The Wall Street Journal's Michael Corkery: "Investors could agitate for a change in Goldman leadership at the company's next annual meeting. But just as sitting presidents are almost always re-elected if the U.S. economy is strong, it would be difficult to see Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein or the company's board members losing their jobs when the company is cranking out big profits."
  • Earth to Shareholders: You Don't Matter, writes Peter Cohan at Daily Finance: "What these big shareholders are forgetting is that they don't matter to Goldman. How so? As Goldman well knows, common shareholders are at the bottom of the liquidation hierarchy. At the top of Goldman are the partners who continue to operate the firm in their best interests, which means paying out nearly half its revenue as annual bonuses. The public shareholders are there just to boost liquidity when Goldman partners sell their shares at their leisure."
  • This Is a Bad Idea, writes Douglas A. McIntyre at 24/7 Wall Street: "The flaw in the shareholders' argument is simple. Big pay packages are, in Goldman's case, based on remarkable performances. Goldman's key partners have created results that have pushed the company's stock from a price of $52 a year ago to $173. Morgan Stanley's (NYSE:MS) shares have performed about as well, but the stocks in other major banks have lagged well behind the better than three-fold improvement in Goldman's share price... Goldman's shareholders may win their fight with management over pay packages. They may also lose in the long run if a number of the company's best people leave."

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