In the five weeks since Goldman Sachs chief Lloyd Blankfein made his spectacularly insensitive comment about doing “God’s work,” the company has been trying to quell the public uproar about bankers’ compensation. Last week, for example, Goldman announced that its top executives would receive no cash bonuses for 2009.
But that move didn’t dissuade Grant & Eisenhofer from proceeding with a derivative suit against Goldman executives (pdf), brought on behalf of the Security Police and Fire Professionals of America Retirement Fund.
In the suit, filed in New York state court on Monday, Grant & Eisenhofer alleges that Goldman directors breached their fiduciary duty by overseeing a pay system that’s not in the best interests of shareholders. According to the complaint, Goldman has set aside more than $22 billion — a record amount — for 2009 bonuses, even though its workers didn’t merit them.
“Goldman’s success this year has not been the product of the skill and business acumen of the company’s employees, but is attributable directly to the multi-trillion dollar infusion of capital by the American taxpayers to bail out the entire financial services industry — including Goldman Sachs itself,” Grant & Eisenhofer lawyers state in the complaint.
Goldman has long had a policy of paying out nearly half of its net revenue to employees in bonuses, according to the suit. Jay Eisenhofer told the Litigation Daily that such a policy doesn’t make sense for shareholders, despite Goldman’s claims that it’s necessary to attract the best and the brightest bankers. “How do they know they can’t attract the best and brightest [by setting aside] 39 percent of net revenues or 35 percent?” said Eisenhofer. “They didn’t try to figure that out.”
The suit seeks restitution from 14 individual defendants and an unspecified amount of damages. It also seeks an opportunity for shareholders to vote on a proposal to shore up the board’s oversight of compensation.
A Goldman spokesman told the Litigation Daily that the suit is “entirely without merit” and the company would “contest it vigorously.” No word yet on who will defend the bank.
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