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Goldman Sachs PR Chief Dishes on Damage Control

Many media outlets have labeled Greg Smith’s investment banking expose Why I Left Goldman Sachs disappointing; some in the financial industry have gone so far as to call him a classic “con man”. That doesn’t mean Goldman’s top PR guy Jake Siewert can rest easy.

A veteran of the Clinton administration and former adviser to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Siewert signed with Sachs earlier this year to help the firm’s principals “put the mistakes of the financial crisis behind them” and improve their company’s public image.

Mere days after Siewert’s hiring announcement, The New York Times published Greg Smith’s defamatory op-ed decrying the Goldman Sachs culture of greed as “toxic and destructive”—so you might say he hit the ground running.

Most of Siewert’s damage control efforts over the past six months have amounted to “off the record” conversations defending the firm’s reputation, but yesterday he sat down with New York Magazine’s Kevin Roose to discuss the politics and challenges of reputation management.

We won’t reprint the entire interview, but here’s an interesting tidbit on why Goldman chose to shoot the messenger:

“Why not just issue a generic statement saying, ‘Goldman Sachs is committed to serving its clients’ needs’ and leave it at that?

That hasn’t worked out so well in the past. And frankly, we didn’t know what was in the book.”

Siewert is predictably guarded, but it’s still worth a read.

PR pros: How big is the challenge facing Siewert? Was Goldman right to attack Smith?

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