When you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas.
Of all the lines I heard bandied about during my time on sales and trading desks on Wall Street, the line I reference above is one of my favorites. Why? That line goes straight to reputation.
As much as anybody may want to whine, bitch, or moan about being treated unfairly, ultimately the court of public opinion will convey upon an individual or an entity the reputation he or they deserve.
As a parent, I have often had the discussion with my children that they had better be exceptionally careful as to what they do and with whom they hang because you carry your family name with you everywhere you go and you only get one reputation. For this very reason, I strongly believe the greatest risk in life is reputation risk.
How often do we hear people complain about being treated unfairly? All too often. In my opinion, nobody is anywhere close to being as good as they think nor as bad as others may say, but somewhere in that vast middle ground, the individual or company has the reputation they deserve.
I see this dynamic at work this morning in reading The Wall Street Journal’s review of Wall Street’s favorite punching bag, Goldman Sachs (GS). The WSJ writes, Goldman Lists New ‘Risk’: Bad Press:
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. added something new to the laundry list of financial risks it faces: unflattering attention.
In its annual report, the New York company said “adverse publicity” could have “a negative impact on our reputation and on the morale and performance of our employees, which could adversely affect our businesses and results of operations.”
The unusual disclosure in a 12-page section of “risk factors” ranging from rocky financial markets to natural disasters is the latest sign of Goldman’s whipping-boy status among rivals, lawmakers and angry Americans because of the firm’s giant profits.
The fact that Goldman believes they need to highlight this adverse reputation risk in its annual report strikes me as just further evidence of an arrogant firm.
Lloyd and team need to take a hard look in the mirror.
Now that Goldman is flea infested is not an indictment of those highlighting their condition, it is an indictment of where and with whom Goldman is sleeping.