Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein may seem at ease in front of cameras or when speaking at conferences – but he says he’s on edge all the time.
“I live in fear that one of my tens of thousands of employees … will do something wrong, and their bad behavior will be ascribed to me – not simply because I failed to supervise, but in this current milieu, it will be ascribed to me as if I intended that bad act,” the chief executive said in a recent interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
“I’m scared to death of mistakes that are made in my organization – and guess what, the world wants me to be scared to death of that.”
Regulating Wall Street has become a hot topic in the US presidential race, and the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, has been criticized for her close ties to the industry.
But Blankfein, who said earlier in the interview that he supports Clinton, said Wall Street is already on high alert.
“Guess what? You have an anxious industry,” he said. “I’m sure that people are happy that it’s that way.”
Congress introduced the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in 2010 to prevent the kinds of activities that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, banks have scaled up their compliance departments and scaled down many risky businesses.
Asked about CEO accountability when banks “do bad things,” Blankfein said there’s a difference between malevolence and mistakes.
“Sometimes what’s going on here is that people are trying to proscribe malevolence for people who were wrong, and the evidence that they were simply wrong is look how much money they lost,” Blankfein said.
“At the end of the day, if you still think that their behavior was off, to be punished the way people are saying they should be punished, you still have to find some kind of a criminal intent.”
“Maybe the law shouldn’t be this way, but stupidity is not a crime.”