Ex-Goldman CEO Blankfein: Wall Street turned a blind eye to Trump

  • Lloyd Blankfein, ex-chair and CEO of Goldman Sachs, said Wall Street had “put a clothespin on our nose” when it came to Donald Trump’s presidency. 
  • “He was delivering what ‘we’ wanted … we weren’t ignorant of the kind of risks we were taking. We repressed them,” Blankfein told The New York Times. 
  • Blankfein, who left Goldman in 2018, didn’t vote for Trump. In September, he seemed to suggest that public markets were ready for Joe Biden to win the presidency. 
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Lloyd Blankfein, the ex-chair and CEO of Goldman Sachs, has criticized Wall Street for turning a blind eye to the risks posed by a Donald Trump presidency, saying collectively we “put a clothespin on our nose.”

Blankfein said Wall Street put up with Trump simply because of what he could deliver, mainly lower corporate taxes and fewer regulations. 

“He was delivering what ‘we’ wanted. We put a clothespin on our nose. We weren’t ignorant of the kind of risks we were taking. We repressed them,” Blankfein said in a plainspoken interview with The New York Times. 

Blankfein’s comments come days after a Trump-incited mob descended on the US Capitol, fueled by baseless conspiracy theories that Trump’s re-election defeat was the result of fraud. Violence from the siege led to five deaths.

Blankfein said the lessons of the past four years is that “character really counts.” 

Read more: Gary Cohn, former Goldman Sachs exec and Trump economic advisor, is joining IBM as vice chairman

“There are people who make a lot of money in the world today, but they play the ethics thing close to the line. And if they were very, very profitable, you could get seduced and rationalize it in saying, “You know something? I know this is not good, but he’s delivering what I want.”

Blankfein, who left Goldman in 2018, didn’t vote for Trump. In September, he seemed to suggest on Twitter that public markets seemed ready for Democrat Joe Biden to win the presidency. 

“Perhaps folks think their stocks and 401(k)s will do better with higher taxes and increased regulation than with nastiness and scorched earth,” he wrote at the time

But as the Dow and Nasdaq both climbed to record highs, the upper echelon of Wall Street mostly remained silent on Trump.

Wall Street.

Stocks recovered after a rough day Wednesday on Wall Street.

Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

The Dow gained 49% between Trump’s inauguration and the February 2020 crash caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Even amid the pandemic and the election of Democrat Joe Biden as president, markets have soared.  Both the Dow and S&P 500 were set to touch new records on Friday, days after Trump supporters ransacked the halls of Congress.

Read more: Trump’s billionaire backers are ‘horrified’ by the insurrection at the Capitol, but only one has broken with him 

In the days since the Capitol siege, some CEOs have spoken out to condemn the deadly violence. 

Apple’s Tim Cook, who has often met with Trump, said the riots were a “sad and shameful chapter.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai called the attacks “the antithesis of democracy.” In a statement, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said: “This is not who we are as a people or a country. We are better than this.” 

According to Blankfein, it in was many people’s self-interest to overlook Trump’s past behavior, such as the notorious Access Hollywood tape that made news days before the 2016 election, accusations from scores of women about sexual misconduct and questions regarding Trump’s tax returns. 

“So, yes, they supported him. And I think that support is not undone by some one-minute-to-midnight deathbed confession that, ‘Oh my God, this was too much for me,'” he said. 

This week, Blackstone CEO, chairman, and co-founder Stephen Schwarzman, a staunch Trump ally, condemned Trump supporters’ violent attacks on the US Capitol. “I am shocked and horrified by this mob’s attempt to undermine our constitution.  As I said in November, the outcome of the election is very clear and there must be a peaceful transition of power,” he added.

Blankfein said he takes a prudent view on business leaders weighing in on social issues. 

“My view is business leaders owe their platform to their company, and therefore they shouldn’t appropriate it for personal things, but rather they should take positions on those issues where it’s in the wheelhouse of the company’s expertise and their expertise,” he told The Times. 

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