Lloyd Blankfein has very much been a man in the news lately, sometimes to good effect and sometimes not so much. In the past few weeks the Goldman Sachs CEO has made headlines by declaring that his firm was “doing God’s work” and, just this week, by suggesting that Goldman probably would have survived without the government largess that was channeled its way at the height of last year’s financial sector meltdown. Those comments, made in interviews with the Times of London and Vanity Fair, were part of a broad media offensive which has sought to burnish the image of the bank Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi famously described as a blood sucking vampire squid.
It seems surprising, then, that the nearly ubiquitous Blankfein will be absent when Goldman convenes its annual U.S. financial services conference next week, featuring such industry heavyweights as JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and Blackstone’s Steve Schwarzman, there will be no appearance by Blankfein or any other Goldman senior executive. That’s in sharp contrast to what happens at many top banks when they sponsor conferences; Bank of America’s outgoing CEO Ken Lewis, for example, was keynote speaker at his bank’s financial services conference early last month.
Does this mean Blankfein has said his piece for now and is going to adopt a lower profile going forward? Not necessarily, Goldman says. Blankfein, or whoever the Goldman CEO is at a given time, is never a featured guest at the conference, said Ed Canaday, a spokesman for the bank. “Historically we have not had our CEO or another member of senior management speak at the conference,” he said. “I know it’s different from some other companies but that’s how it’s been done historically.”
Meanwhile Bank of America, which on the initial conference agenda had the initials “TBD” next to its name in the space where other banks listed their CEOs, has dropped out entirely as speculation swirls about who will take the top job at the troubled lender. Given Blankfein is as secure in his job as any CEO of a major bank, perhaps the next Bank of America chief will take a page out of his book and be conspicuously absent from the stage next year.