Goldman Bailed Out 2 Executives

The financial giant Goldman Sachs spent tens of millions of dollars to bail out two senior executives last fall who were short on cash, according to the bank’s proxy statement filed on Friday.

In an unusual move, Goldman bought back stakes in some internal investment funds from Jon Winkelried, the bank’s co-chief operating officer, and Gregory K. Palm, its general counsel.

Both executives are among the largest shareholders in the bank, owning more than a million shares each, and directors were concerned that a large sale of Goldman shares by the two men would alarm investors during a period of market turmoil, according to a person briefed on the matter.

To avoid the stock sales, Goldman paid Mr. Winkelried, who retired last month, $19.7 million to purchase about 30 percent of his investments in internal hedge funds and private equity investments.

The bank paid $38.3 million to Mr. Palm for about a quarter of his investments.

Soon after the bank aided the two executives, Warren E. Buffett invested $5 billion in Goldman, and the bank’s top four executives agreed not to sell more than 10 percent of their stock for three years.

Mr. Palm was not one of the four barred from selling stock, but Mr. Winkelried was, and that agreement remains in place even though he has retired.

The proxy also says that one bank executive, who is not identified, has pledged 500,000 shares of Goldman stock in exchange for loans from the bank.

The executives are not the only Goldman employees who have faced a liquidity squeeze. Goldman also offered loans earlier this month to more than 1,000 employees who invested in its internal investment funds. About 10 percent of those employees have indicated interest in the loans, according to a person briefed on the matter. The employees will use the loans to meet their contractual obligations to put more money into the bank’s internal investment funds.

Few banks were as high-flying as Goldman when Wall Street was riding high. In 2006, the bank paid more than 50 people more than $20 million each. But longtime partners at the firm, like Mr. Palm and Mr. Winkelried, have been particularly stung by the slide in its stock, and Goldman has been among the banks that have made margin calls on their own workers.

Goldman was the last Wall Street firm to go public, and many partners there, current and former, have held onto their stock since the offering 10 years ago because they did not want to pay the large tax bills attached to the profits that would accrue from sales of their shares.

Some partners and other employees there borrowed against their stock for living expenses or to make other investments in areas like hedge funds and private equity funds.

In a much-noticed sign of the times, Mr. Winkelried, a former investment banker, put his estate in Nantucket on the market last fall for $55 million. He has since lowered the price. He also owns a home in Short Hills, N.J., and a horse farm in Colorado.

Mr. Winkelried spent 27 years at the bank, working in areas like leveraged finance and rates and commodities before being named a senior executive. Mr. Palm still works at Goldman, where he has been head or co-head of the legal department since 1992, when he joined the bank from the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. In 2007, he endowed a professorship in economics at his alma mater, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Last fall, he represented Goldman before a Senate panel that focused in part on bank compensation.

Mr. Palm and Mr. Winkelried did not return calls requesting comment on Friday.

Goldman’s chief, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and six other senior executives took no bonuses last year, the proxy confirmed, though they received some stock that was awarded to them in previous years.

Goldman will hold its annual meeting on May 8.

Published: March 27, 2009

Source: The New York Times

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