When US President George W. Bush stepped forward to announce his new treasury secretary on May 30, a few Goldman Sachs friends likely knew Henry Paulson had the job.
Has Goldman Sachs Taken Over the Bush Administration?
Paulson was not the first Goldman executive to join the Bush administration from the 137-year-old investment bank described by the president as one of America's "most respected firms".
In fact, he was following in the well-heeled footsteps of three other former Goldman alumni who answered Bush's call, although Stephen Friedman who briefly headed the White House National Economic Council, has since returned to "the firm" as it is known on Wall Street.
Aside from running a billion-dollar bank, it is also likely that Paulson's political donations of tens of thousands of dollars to Republican senators added to his luster.
The "revolving door" between the corporate world and government is nothing new, but Goldman leads the way by far in terms of its managers infiltrating the White House and other top government posts.
"It appears to be, for whatever reason, that Goldman Sachs sometimes has a disproportionate share of former employees in and out of government at any one time," said former White House spokesman Trent Duffy, who observed personnel decisions.
"Some companies are more welcoming of government officials and maybe that's how Goldman has been a little more successful in putting its people in there," Duffy said.
Others said Goldman's blue-chip reputation also helps.
"There is a bias in favor of people who have risen to the top at places like Goldman because it is seen as giving that person more to offer in that type of post, like the treasury," said Beth Young, an analyst at The Corporate Library, an independent corporate governance consultancy.
Young said Goldman benefits when executives return to the firm, as they would be expected to bring back a BlackBerry bursting with influential contacts.
Goldman does not publicly trumpet the appointments, but it does celebrate top managers who have served in the government.
One of the oil paintings hanging in the executive suite at Goldman's New York headquarters portrays Robert Rubin, a former vice chairman who became then-president Bill Clinton's treasury secretary.
But Bush has hired far more heavily from the bank that was founded in a New York basement by German immigrant Marcus Goldman in 1869.
The president's chief of staff, Josh Bolten, and the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Jeffery Reuben, are Goldman alumni.
But the flow goes both ways. Goldman recently hired Robert Zoellick, who stepped down as the US deputy secretary of state, and Faryar Shirzad, who worked as one of Bush's national security advisors.
"They must do a great job of maintaining their presence in Washington," said Jerry Swerling, a public relations profesor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, who has advised General Motors and Cisco Systems.
"When you look at the appointments that these Goldman people have been getting it certainly says 'yes' to all those criteria" that Goldman's clients would desire in terms of inside knowledge and government access," Swerling said.
A securities law expert, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "They're very attentive at Goldman to what school you went to," noting that "the firm" recruits from "Ivy League" universities like Harvard and Yale.
This creates a "network" of individuals who have friends in high government office, the expert said.
A Goldman Sachs spokesman said the firm is proud of executives who enter public service and that it welcomes former government officials.
"We are doing business at the intersection of so many markets around the world, that people with a global perspective are immensely useful," the spokesman said.
A space on the executive suite wall is reserved for Paulson's portrait, but a sitting has yet to be scheduled.
Copyright © 2006 AFP