Having been "to hell and back" during the financial crisis, as a Breaking Views columnist put it in the Times today, or having experienced "the emotional equivalent of being in a really bad car crash every day for two years," as a charmingly quotable friend close to the situation might say, Goldman Sachs is "doing some serious soul-searching in the wake of the S.E.C. probe," Breaking Views Jeff Goldfarb said on Reuters today. The company is "taking a step back," the columnist said, and is embarking on a true "spiritual journey" on which they will "reevaluate" who they are and who they want to be going forward in this amazing thing we call life.
And we're not talking yoga or trust falls, or even having a healer come in and smudge Lloyd Blankfein's office to rid it of evil spirits. You don't get to be the world's ballsiest, bangin'est financial institution by doing pansy stuff like that (see Morgan Stanley.) No, when Goldman fellows get together and participate in what some executives reportedly calling "a spiritual, introspective exercise," stuff can get pretty intense, Goldfarb said.
"When Goldman thinks about itself, when it does the sort of soul-searching, it does so in a very serious way. It does it thoughtfully, it does so in an analytical way.They have set up this business standards committee that's focusing on putting clients first, being more transparent. It's not going to be a trivial matter for them."
Putting clients first? Being more transparent? If we are hearing him right, this thing Goldman is doing must be as hard-core transformative as EST or the Landmark Forum — they could emerge a completely different company! The last time the firm went this deep, Goldfarb adds, they ended up going public. We'd tell you how their current journey toward openness and transparency was progressing so far, but spokesman Lucas Van Praag has not responded to our request for comment. (He's probably meditating.)
Update: Van Praag at least has not been spiritually altered by recent events. "I don't know quite what the author had in mind," he said when asked whether Goldman used mind-altering substances as part of their exercises. "but I am in an almost perpetual state of relaxed wakefulness."