Goldman Sachs' mandatory charity
The much-hated bank might force its employees to donate part of their bonuses to charity. Will an angry public buy the gesture?
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein

oldman Sachs wants to give its employees massive bonuses, but it doesn't want to upset the public, which is still reeling from the recession and angry about the bank bailouts. So Goldman is considering making its executives and top managers donate a percentage of their earnings to charity. Would such mandatory generosity keep people from hating Goldman over its lavish bonuses, or is it just a transparent PR move?

Charity can't be forced: "I think it's great if corporations support charities," or even urge their workers to spread the wealth, says Kevin Drum in Mother Jones. "But I don't think much of this idea" of charitable giving "at the point of a gun." First of all, that's not charity. And more to the point, "charitable giving isn't a smokescreen for indefensible behavior."
"Goldman's charity"

Watch out this could backfire: The plan also "fails to address why so many Americans hate Goldman," says Daniel Indiviglio in The Atlantic. From a PR standpoint — and isn't PR the point? — it's smarter to tally up the "tens or even hundred of millions of dollars" Goldman employees would donate anyway, to show how generous they are "without coercion." Forcing the charity just reinforces the perception that Goldman "bankers and traders are greedy scoundrels."
"Goldman to require charity?"

It's a PR tactic but the money will do some good: Sure, this is "at best" a PR gimmick, says Lisa Germinsky in Tonic. But "it is hard to argue that there is anything inherently bad" about giving a share of Goldman bonuses to the "countless nonprofits that desperately need it." With the average Goldman worker reportedly making $595,000, charities could get hundreds of millions of dollars. But the outrage at Goldman's greed is justified — so maybe the investment bank should make everyone do some volunteer work, too, so they'll really see that money isn't everything.
"Goldman Sachs Bonuses: A good idea?"

The bonuses are the problem, not the forced charity: Why is it that "not giving enormous bonuses, a potentially foolproof PR strategy, seems to have not come up" at Goldman HQ? asks Morgan Clendaniel in GOOD. The current plan "shouldn't actually make anyone feel good about Goldman," or "make anyone at Goldman feel good about themselves." While the bankers figure this out, can't someone "throw some eggs at Goldman HQ, for God's sake?"
"If you have to give to charity, does it even count?"



Subscribe to the Week