Mr L. Blankfein
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
How are you? Well, I hope. I appreciate that you must be busy these days, what with the SEC investigating you and so on, but I thought I’d write anyway – perhaps, like me, you find that a little personal news can brighten up a dull day.
It’s a lovely day here in England. Spring is well on the way, and I’m spending a lot more time in the garden these days – I can’t say I envy you all the time you must be spending in dreary board rooms!
Not that it’s been exactly a bed of roses here lately. In fact we’ve been having one or two domestic problems. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but I had to stop working last November, and I’m still looking for a new job. As you can imagine, it’s been a strain, but I can’t say there’s anything special about us – several of our friends are in the same boat. I’m not sure it’s a boat any of us want to be in, but at least we are all in it together. Bit short of oars, though!
On the other hand, it helps me to sympathise with your own plight – what a shock it must have been, having your pay cut so savagely last year – from $42.9 million to under $10 million! I hope you aren’t having to make too many difficult choices. Anyway, I’m sure it won’t last – once people really appreciate what you and your colleagues in the financial services sector have done for us all over the last few years, hopefully you’ll get what you truly deserve.
And here at home, I’m sure everything will be OK in the end. My wife is looking a bit stressed these days but assures me that she’s not too worried. I’m not sure how worried ‘too worried’ is – at least she isn’t on pills yet! – but we’re OK for the moment. Our savings run out next month, but we’ve still got the children’s savings. One of her usual brilliant twenty-year plans was to put aside their child benefit each month since they were born, to make sure they wouldn’t start their working lives with huge debts from university. We had hoped to have enough put aside to get them all the way through, but I guess we’ll have to make other plans. It’s a pity – neither of them look like potential investment bankers (I guess we’ve brought them up wrong) so it will be many years before they’re out of debt.
Still, it can’t be helped. I’m only glad my wife had such foresight and we have something to fall back on now, even if it is only by accident. Otherwise we’d have to start thinking about selling the house. Now that can wait for a few months, thank heavens.
Of course, we count our blessings. I saw the other day that millions of your compatriots have lost their homes (all those sub-prime mortgages, I believe), and 31 million are now either out of work or ‘underemployed’ – a very ugly word, don’t you think? Unemployment is up here too, though not so sharply, I believe. You must be relieved that it didn’t hit the financial sector as hard as the rest of the country – it must be hard finding a good investment banker at the best of times.
It’s been a strain in other ways too. You won’t know our niece, but we’ve been trying to support her through school. She’s a lovely girl, and really benefits from being able to continue her education. But I’m afraid that that’s had to stop now, at least until I can get another job. I hope it isn’t too late – perhaps we can find some more cuts to see her through.
But the real pity is that we’ve had to stop pretty much all our regular charity contributions too. I hope you’ve been able to keep up your charity work – it’s the Robin Hood Foundation your work for, isn’t it? But what an irony – all the wonderful work you do for the poor of New York, and then to be accused of leading the rich in robbing the poor. How unfair is that?
Most of our contributions go to charities working in developing countries. They used to send us newsletters and reports from time to time, and it was great seeing how much good they do. They also made us more than grateful that we live in such wealthy countries. You probably recall the UN saying a while back that 100 million more people will be living on less than $2 a day because of this recession, and recently I read somewhere that the World Bank is saying that 50,000 more babies will die in Africa. (Perhaps you could ask your fellow investment bankers to make a small contribution there – I don’t know whether you are a religious man, but it’s doing God’s work, isn’t it?)
It must be especially galling to see the company you have devoted your whole life to being vilified so. If it were me, I’d be wondering what sense it makes to be an investment banker, when people just think you’re a con man. Look how vigorously Goldman Sachs staff are contributing to the recovery – so many of your best people right there at the top, advising your government and the banks and doing so much else.
Yet people are still ungrateful – for example, why would anyone give a book a hurtful title like Chasing Goldman Sachs: How the Masters of the Universe Melted Wall Street Down… And Why They’ll Take Us to the Brink Again? There are even people who suggest that you plan to exploit the carbon trading markets to make billions – surely they can’t think you’d be so irresponsible?
By the way, we were all very impressed by the clever way your people arranged to borrow government money at 0.5% and then use it to buy government bonds that pay 3%-4% – a healthy profit for doing nothing at all! How ingenious! As that cheeky Matt Taibbi puts it, it’s ‘no different than attaching an ATM to the side of the Federal Reserve’. You must be so proud.
Well, I’m sure that’s enough from me for one day, but I’ll write again soon. Please feel free to pass my letter around to all your friends on Wall Street – we’re all thinking of them.