Together, we all can save Goldman Sachs

Sharp downturn in investment bank's earnings sparks patriotic call to action

The following is a Public Service Announcement: One of America's cherished institutions is in trouble and needs your help. For the third straight quarter, investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has suffered declining earnings. Due to a sharp downturn in client trading and investment banking, Goldman's net income plunged 52 percent in the fourth quarter to $2.39 billion from $4.95 billion a year ago. (Also see: Goldman Sachs or Goldman Sulks?) Simple math proves that, should this trend continue unabated, Goldman will be panhandling at various intersections on Wall Street a year from now, or at the very least busking for donations, which would really suck in February because it's hard to form chords on your guitar in freezing cold weather, except maybe an open D or C. Barre chords, forget it. That's not the worst of it, however. Goldman was forced to reward its employees -- and we use the word "reward" loosely here -- with only $15.38 billion in salaries and bonuses in 2010. That's 5 percent below what it gave out in 2009. Think about it: How are Goldman employees supposed to pay their mortgages for luxury vacation homes in the Hamptons and Bali on that kind of money? So dire is Goldman's situation that it recently had to take its offer of $1.5 billion private shares of social networking company Facebook to investors in China, rescinding a previous offer to its wealthy U.S. clients. No doubt pride played a part in this decision, as the documents hand-delivered to Goldman's clients in New York soliciting their interest in Facebook reportedly were printed on recycled paper, triggering rumors and catty comments all over Manhattan. At least the Chinese are discreet enough to pretend not to notice cheap bond paper when they see it. Some of you may be thinking, "Why doesn't Goldman just go to the U.S. government for a bailout? It's been done before." Point taken, but Goldman's recent $550 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over allegations that it defrauded investors has left relations between the investment bank and Uncle Sam slightly strained. So this is where you come in. It stands to reason that if Goldman Sachs is too big to fail, it also is too big to suffer. But you, dear readers, are not too big to fail. In fact, if your net worth is less than $1 million, you've already failed, so there's no real downside here. Now is your opportunity to dig down and donate what you can to this noble American institution. Indeed, one could consider it your patriotic duty. Whatever you can come up with, it's not enough, so try to come up with more. If money is tight, sell off some assets. Start with your home, assuming it's not in foreclosure. Plus we hear renting is all the rage these days. So too are shantytowns and living in your car, provided it hasn't been repossessed. If those assets aren't "in play," consider cutting your food budget in half. Some of you could stand to lose some weight, anyway. You also might want to consider dispensing with luxuries such as "heat" and "electricity," at least for a few months. You can shift to alternative energy sources, such as burning furniture. Besides, before you know it, spring will be around the corner! If you're willing to go the extra mile and have children, consider "turning them out." To some that may seem like an extreme suggestion, but consider it part of their education. After all, it's never too early for them to learn the ways of the world. They will thank you someday, perhaps when your prison sentence is concluded. With another quarterly report due just three months hence, time is of the essence. Goldman needs you. America needs you. But mostly Goldman. So do your patriotic duty and make a non-tax-deductible donation today. And bring a smile to an avaricious banker's face. This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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