Goldman Sachs chief spokesman Lucas Van Praag didn't deny the London Sunday Times report yesterday that the bank's chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, was planning to thumb his nose at Obama and the world by taking a $100 million bonus this year. That would have been beneath him. Instead, he issued this blistering retort to various media outlets:
"There’s speculation, and there is stupidity. This speculation transcends the simply stupid and takes it to an entirely new level...giving credibility to tittle-tattle is pretty shoddy journalism"
This is just the sort of response we've come to expect from Van Praag, a partner in the firm who, by the sound of his name, arrived at Goldman via Hogwarts, Slytherin House (actually, it was via the Brunswick Group, and Durham University), since public anger began roiling against the firm this summer: Cocksure, weary and exasperated at having to explain the simplest of concepts to idiots but yet able to sum up enough dry amusment as to almost sound charming. Let's take a look back at some of Van Praag's most devastating responses to those who have been so bold as to interrupt his day with their ridiculous questions about the world's most profitable and systemically significant investment bank.
• "It is preposterous that The Wall Street Journal would even consider publishing such effluent." —This past weekend, when The Wall Street Journal asked him about rumors that Blankfein might be planning to resign
• "The speculation about compensation is ill-informed and, frankly, pretty stupid." —To ABC News, which tried to guess which executives were getting what amount of bonuses, last week
• "There is nothing to be taken away from the story other than the fact that reporter fails to comprehend the subject matter." —To McClatchy Newspapers, regarding a recent story about Goldman Sachs and synthetic CDOs
• "If the reporter thinks we're going to have the best year ever, he must be psychic." —In an e-mail to thestreet.com, regarding bonuses
• "[Taibbi's] story is an hysterical compilation of conspiracy theories," he wrote in an e-mail. "Notable ones missing are Goldman Sachs as the third shooter [in John F. Kennedy's assassination] and faking the first lunar landing." — to the Post, regarding Rolling Stone's infamous "Vampire Squid" story
• Later, after some Googling, to the London Sunday Times: "Vampire squid are very small and harmless to humans."
• It was "an obviously ironic, throwaway response. Sort of like saying, 'I'm living the dream' in response to a question about how you're doing. And you can also say that The Sunday Times understood the context perfectly but decided to 'spin' it in a cynical attempt to generate more interest in their story and, presumably, to see if their interpretation could be used to generate a reaction that could be used to 'create' news." —In response to the maelstrom that occurred when CEO Lloyd Blankfein told the Times that Goldman did "God's work"
• "As prudent risk managers, we hedge our risk. To describe that activity as a cynical breaking of faith with clients is both misleading and horribly naïve." —To New York Magazine, regarding Joe Hagan's cover story this summer
• "There was great pressure on banks to provide liquidity and take risk on behalf of clients. We did that, we did it efficiently and we made money for our shareholders. It seems contrarian [to argue] that that is somehow wrong." —Defending Goldman's massive earnings in July
• "Mr. Greenberg appears to base his views on news reports rather than facts. It is interesting that he doesn't mention the devastating conclusions about AIG reached by the company's own auditors." —To Bloomberg, regarding assertions by Hank Greenberg that Goldman was responsible for the collapse of AIG
• "Perhaps publishing online financial commentary means there is less editorial oversight. If so, there is a real danger that nonsense can get dressed up as reality when, in fact, it is nothing more than a chimera produced by a febrile mind." — to MarketWatch's David Weidner, after he suggested Goldman had turned in impressive results in 2008 partly through "market manipulation."
• To the editor of the London Sunday Times, regarding another matter:
I, too, read yesterday's story in the Independent about us supposedly moving people to Spain. As an insider, I was almost certainly more surprised than you.
I accept that Sunday journalism is difficult, particularly in the UK where many titles compete for a share of a pretty small market, but there was a time when fact-based reporting wasn't thought of as an oxymoron. Oh well.
Best / Lucas