On Wednesday, Goldman Sachs announced that its top public relations executive, Lucas van Praag, will retire from the firm in March. Goldman's chief executive and chairman, Lloyd C. Blankfein, made the announcement official with an internal memorandum.
Portions of it stated:
Lucas has played a critical role in helping the firm navigate through one of the most difficult and testing environments the firm has faced, particularly during the recent financial crisis and its aftermath. His strategic counsel and deep understanding of complex issues defined his career at the firm as did his warmth, natural inclusiveness and determination in the face of relentless demands.
Van Praag has been with Goldman for more than a decade, overseeing the firm's public relations. In the last few years during the financial crisis, he faced some challenges as the firm's once first-rate reputation, started to decline. With firm's ongoing profits from the collapsing housing market and large bonuses, greed was no longer seen as good.
Not helping matters was the 2010 Securities and Exchange Commission investigation that accused Goldman of securities fraud, according to the New York Times. The firm subsequently paid $550 million to settle the case.
The replacement for Van Praag hasn't been announced but with his seat not even cold yet, last week speculation began to swirl that Richard Siewert Jr., formerly Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner's counselor, would be the successor. Siewert has supposedly been interviewing with Goldman for months, meeting with 20 of the firm's executives.
Critics may point out that with a Siewert appointment, the alleged and frowned up close relationship that Wall Street has with government agencies, such as the Treasury Department, is very much alive and well.
Goldman Employees Running Out the Door
With Van Praag leaving the firm, he comes on the heels of recent resignations. In January, securities trading chiefs and longtime Goldman partners Edward K. Eisler and David B. Heller, announced they were leaving. Interestingly, the news came on the same day, which is unusual for the firm, reported the New York Times.
Before the calendar switched over, Goldman also announced that Edward C. Forst, a head of asset management and a member of the firm's management committee, had resigned. Since October 2011, Goldman has seen the exit of more than 30 partners.
So what's going on at the firm? Maybe it's time for a change and a new image. The once private and quiet firm that kept its culture and happenings close to the vest has recently been in the news--perhaps too much lately. And it hasn't always been good news.
One site recently selected Blankfein as the next one to go. It included a number of reasons including the firm's activities during the financial crisis, the SEC investigation, declining profits, and the recent attrition.
Usually when a company, especially a public company, endures negative activities, the CEO is the first to go. Blankfein keeps dodging the bullet but soon, it just may hit him.