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Goldman's Blankfein Wins Day With Humor

Senior writer Dan Freed wraps up his coverage of Goldman Sachs' annual meeting, saying humor ultimately carried the day for CEO/Chairman Lloyd Blankfein.
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Updated with write-through following the meeting. Replay of live blog coverage available at story's end.



) -- The key moment in the

Goldman Sachs


shareholder meeting came about 25 minutes in.

The eccentric Evelyn Y. Davis, a fixture at bank shareholder meetings, kicked things off by giving CEO and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein a very thorough and personal dressing down. She asked him to resign on Monday (he said he would not) and then blasted him for employing one of his sons at Goldman and getting the other into Harvard by using the company as his "personal piggy bank."

With all the public scrutiny on Goldman, the

Securities and Exchange Commission's

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fraud charges, the reported Justice Department criminal investigation, and the battering the firm took before Congress late last month, Davis's missiles frequently seemed to hit their mark. For example, she excoriated Blankfein and the firm for spending more than $500 million on legal fees, and at first General Counsel Greg Palm seemed to want to say she was exaggerating. He then read the numbers, however, and it turned out she was right.

While Davis held the spotlight, Blankfein had an uncomfortable smile plastered on his face, while Palm, CFO David Viniar and President Gary Cohn looked ashen-faced.

But then after Davis told Blankfein, in her thick Dutch accent: "You are not as smaht as you look," Blankfein found his self-deprecating sense of humor, an asset he has frequently used to his advantage in the past.

"That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me," Blankfein said, getting big laughs from the 200-odd shareholders, reporters and Goldman Sachs executives and board members in attendance.

Blankfein's sense of humor doesn't always work to his advantage. A joke he made to a reporter in the past about Goldman "doing God's work" does not seem to have gone over especially well. Nonetheless, it won the day Friday. Perhaps the most important proposal at the meeting, one that would have required Goldman to split up the Chairman and CEO positions, didn't pass, attracting just 19% of shareholder votes.

The proposal would not have taken effect until Goldman appointed its next CEO, but it still appeared to be an

informal referendum

on Blankfein. I'd say that, given the intense scrutiny and outrage directed at Goldman at the moment, he passed with flying colors.


Written by Dan Freed in New York