As Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) plans major job cuts in the United States, the firm is planning to expand overseas with a major hiring spree in Singapore and taking the unusual step of alerting Congress before even it's widely known to its own shareholders, the FOX Business Network has learned.
Goldman is so concerned about the potential for criticism that the firms representatives have been alerting staffers of lawmakers in Washington of the hiring spree in recent weeks as a way to mollify any concerns they may have about previously undisclosed plans to add 1,000 jobs to the firms Singapore office, according to people in Washington with direct knowledge if the matter. Goldman is concerned about criticism because it is adding those jobs while it is planning what could be a significant retrenchment in its U.S. workforce, these people say.
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With profits coming under pressure in the U.S., Goldman appears to be launching possibly the most aggressive effort among the big banks to expand operations overseas where the business climate is more favorable, analysts say. The firm is betting that if it can clamp down on any negative publicity by alerting Congressional leaders of the move first, it can continue to move jobs in higher growth areas globally, while it cuts jobs and slashes expenses in its lower-growth areas, such as its U.S. operations, people with knowledge of the matter say.
The jobs in Singapore are likely to be high-paying, skilled positions in sales and investment banking, the same types that are likely to be cut in the firms domestic operations, according to one person with knowledge of the matter. This person added that the firm has recently briefed people in Washington about the new overseas jobs because it is afraid of the fallout as it plans to slash $1 billion in costs over the next year a move that will mean a significant, though still undetermined number of layoffs across its operations, though people close to the firm expect the biggest hit to come from the US. Goldman also plans a much smaller expansion in its Brazil unit and in India.
Goldman has good reason to worry about the fallout. The firm has faced more than two years of intense media scrutiny, stiff criticism from lawmakers in Washington, and regulatory probes leading to big fines over its business practices. Goldmans chief executive Lloyd Blankfein has been a fixture at government hearings involving Wall Street activities, including those that led up to the 2008 financial collapse. US Senator Carl Levin has referred a report from his investigative committee to the U.S. Justice Department over some of the firms questionable deal making, and whether Blankfein had perjured himself during his testimony.
A spokesman for Goldman says neither the firm nor Blankfein did anything wrong.
Were a global business and we manage headcount in a way which most closely reflects the needs of our clients and where we see opportunities to serve our shareholders most effectively, the spokesman said.
With or without the bad press of firing people here while hiring overseas, Goldmans decision to expanding outside the US underscores the harsh reality of the current Wall Street business environment. Major banks are shifting jobs to foreign countries as a slowdown in business and increased regulatory burdens are squeezing profits from their domestic operations.
Lower trading volumes among US investors account for some of the earnings shortfall, of course. Less buying and selling of stocks means lower profits at the big banks.
But another major source of trouble for banks and investment firms is the new regulatory environment. Firms like Goldman have to conform to a plethora of new and costly regulations that came as a result of the 2008 financial collapse, and the massive government bailout of the big financial firms that followed.
Those regulations, found primarily in the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill sponsored by former Senate banking committee chairman Chris Dodd, and his counterpart in the House, Congressman Barney Frank, have forced banks to hold higher capital reserves to protect against losses, and also forced them to exit some lucrative businesses like proprietary trading.
The limits on trading have hit Goldman particularly hard since the firm had made fat profits from using its own capital to take risk and trade securities in various markets, even as the same types of activities led to the firms near-death experience in 2008. Shares of Goldman Sachs have fallen around 25% since the beginning of the year as investors have digested what the new rules might mean to Goldman and the rest of Wall Streets bottom lines.