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May 2, 2012 6:42 pm
Lloyd Blankfein told a group of Wall Street gay activists that Goldman Sachs had lost at least one client because of its stance in favour of gay marriage.
“It’s not without a price,” the Goldman chief executive told an audience on Wednesday. “There was some adverse reaction by someone ... They didn’t want to continue a relationship that they had with us in money management ... I won’t say the name but if you heard the name it wouldn’t surprise you.”
Mr Blankfein has stepped up his public presence recently, including two television interviews last week, after a long period of purdah following his bank’s raft of reputational problems.
He was recruited in February to be a public spokesman for same-sex marriage by the Human Rights Campaign, putting him at the forefront of a politically charged issue.
The Goldman chief executive joined Brian Moynihan, chief executive of Bank of America, at the event for Out on the Street, an advocacy group for gay rights. Mr Moynihan, a staunch Catholic, said sexuality was irrelevant to the bank’s staff: “You can come in, be yourself, be successful, be all you want to be.”
Mr Blankfein said conservatives had no reason not to support gay marriage, which was legalised in New York state last year. “It’s people on the other side who sometimes want to legislate how you live your life,” he said.
Paul Singer, the founder of Elliott Capital Management Corporation, who has poured money and time into advocating for same-sex marriage despite being a self-acknowledged “strong rightwing conservative”, said: “I don’t think it’s going to be a harsh environment in a Romney administration.”
On Tuesday Mitt Romney’s foreign policy spokesman, Richard Grenell, who is openly gay, quit the campaign after receiving abuse from sections of the religious right.
Susan Scher, a managing director at Goldman, told the event that a partner at the bank had told her that she had an exemption from a firm-wide ban on voting for Barack Obama in November’s presidential elections – only because of the president’s stance on gay rights.
Though the partner’s statement was an obvious joke, it illustrates the depth of anti-Obama feeling among much of Wall Street less than four years after he attracted a significant level of support from bankers, many of whom traditionally vote for Democrats.
Mr Blankfein quickly noted that Goldman bankers could vote for whoever they wished.
Mr Blankfein said Wall Street was more supportive of gay rights than other industries because of a meritocratic culture.
“Wall Street shouldn’t be out in front. Wall Street just is out in front,” he said. “It’s among the most egalitarian places. The market doesn’t care whether you’re black or white, tall or short, gay or straight.” He said it might be unhelpful for bankers to be at the vanguard of the issue “when Wall Street isn’t the most beloved sector of the economy right now”.
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