Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has shied away from publicly backing a presidential candidate this year, saying his support could harm that person’s chances.
Yet in an interview that will air Sunday on CNN’s “ Fareed Zakaria GPS,” Blankfein, asked if he personally supports and admires Democrat Hillary Clinton, said that he did.
“I’m supportive of Hillary Clinton,” Blankfein said, according to a transcript provided by the network. “Yes, so flat out, yes, I do. That doesn’t say that I agree with all of her policies. I don’t. And that doesn’t say that I adopt everything that she’s done in her political career or has suggested that she might do going forward.”
Clinton, 68, has been criticized, both in the primary fight against Senator Bernie Sanders and in the general election campaign against Republican Donald Trump, for her ties to Goldman Sachs. She was paid some $675,000 for three speeches to the New York-based bank in 2013, months after she had stepped down as secretary of state.
Transcripts purported to be of the Goldman Sachs speeches were released by WikiLeaks on Oct. 15. Neither Goldman Sachs nor the Clinton campaign, which had declined to release the speeches, has confirmed the authenticity of the documents, although Blankfein said Clinton didn’t say “anything untoward” in her appearances. The CNN interview was conducted before the transcripts were released.
‘Willingness to Engage’
During her 2008 campaign, before investigations into Goldman’s sales of toxic mortgage securities turned Blankfein into one of the faces of the U.S. financial crisis, the executive held a fundraiser for Clinton. In the latest interview he admired her willingness to work with Republicans when she represented New York as a senator.
“She could cross the aisle and engage other people to get things done,” Blankfein, 62, said on CNN. “That willingness to engage is a scarcer commodity these days.”
Bank executives have been hesitant to wade into politics this election season. JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon on Oct. 17 offered a read-between-the-lines prediction that Clinton would win, drawing applause by referring to the next president as “she” at a conference. Blankfein was asked about the election in an interview in February and declined to take sides at that time. “I don’t want to help or hurt anybody by giving them an endorsement,” he told CNBC.
In the wide-ranging CNN interview, Blankfein also said the U.S. economy, despite a “tepid” rate of growth, has a “lot of advantages,” including the extent to which consumers have de-leveraged since the 2008-09 financial crisis, and a sound banking system.
“The sentiment is a lot worse than the economy,” he said, speaking about “a more generalized anxiety” evident in the 2016 political season.
“I’m not minimizing the consequence to people who should have — who feel their jobs should be higher paid, and legitimately so, and the legitimate issues about minimum wages,” Blankfein said. “But at the end of the day, these problems always existed to some extent.”
Speaking about financial regulation, Blankfein said that the rules in place now are strict, and that his biggest fear is that the potential misconduct of a rogue employee will be attributed to him and the bank as a whole.
‘Scared to Death’
“The world wants me to be scared to death of that and they want me to be vigilant at the end of the day, and they’ve accomplished their purpose,” Blankfein said. “They have me on edge all the time.”
The latest banker to face the wrath of regulators is Wells Fargo & Co.’s John Stumpf, who resigned as chief executive this month amid the outcry over employees opening bogus accounts without customers’ knowledge. Some lawmakers have called for him to be criminally prosecuted. While Blankfein declined to address the situation specifically, he said that some financial misconduct isn’t intentional enough to be a crime.
“To be punished the way people are saying they should be punished, you still have to find some kind of a criminal intent,” Blankfein said. “If you’re merely wrong and you didn’t get it right, it’s hard to ascribe criminality.”