Simmons leaves Goldman’s board

By Felix Salmon
February 13, 2010
explained that the decision as to whether she should continue to sit on the board of Goldman Sachs was a complex one which would not be taken lightly:

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On Tuesday, Brown president Ruth Simmons explained that the decision as to whether she should continue to sit on the board of Goldman Sachs was a complex one which would not be taken lightly:

If Simmons were to leave Goldman’s board, she said, she does not think she would join another board…

One reason Simmons cited not to seek out new positions was that the seniority she now enjoys on Goldman’s board allows her to advocate for programs to help women and minorities.

Simmons said that, as with her retirement from Pfizer’s board three years ago, when to call it quits with Goldman will not be a decision she makes by herself, but rather in cooperation with the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, with which she meets regularly to evaluate her actions.

“I feel very strongly that I don’t know enough as an individual — a sole individual — to make that decision alone,” she said.

On the other hand, it seems that complex decisions on such matters can still be taken quickly. Goldman put out a press release on Friday afternoon, just as the long weekend was starting, saying that Simmons was leaving the board, and citing “increasing time requirements associated with her position as President of Brown University”.

Happily, Simmons leaves with Goldman stock resurgent: her 27,386 restricted stock units are worth $4.2 million right now, and can be sold the year after she retires from the board; she also has another 10,000 options on top of that. Goldman Sachs board members, it seems — who are all members of the compensation committee — are compensated as well as you might expect from the company which invented the $68.5 million CEO bonus.

I said after Tuesday’s interview with Simmons was published that she seemed to think about her membership on Goldman’s board much more in terms of what it could do for her and her pet causes than in terms of being a shareholder representative tasked with overseeing senior management, and I called for a revamp of the board. Friday’s news is exactly the step in that direction that I was looking for: maybe Simmons took my comments to heart!

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