Goldman Sachs Group said a shareholder proposal targeting its executive pay contains errors that should allow the bank to exclude the controversial matter from its upcoming proxy.
Goldman made the arguments in a letter dated January 11 to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the latest salvo in an ongoing political struggle and public relations war over Wall Street's high pay following taxpayer bailouts.
Goldman's historically high compensation has made the company a lightning rod for criticism. The bank's chief executive, Lloyd Blankfein, is among industry leaders who was scheduled to testify to Congress yesterday. Goldman has said it already responded to some pay concerns, including paying more top employees in stock and requiring some charitable contributions.
The charitable contributions requirement dates from before the financial crisis, although the New York Times reported on Monday that Goldman may demand more such giving in the future.
Goldman has not returned phone calls seeking comment about the proxy matter since Monday.
But its January 11 letter shows the company seeking to head off a call by shareholders including the Nathan Cummings Foundation in New York and the Benedictine Sisters of Mt Angel in Oregon for Goldman to review pay disparities between executives like Blankfein and average workers at the company, and to set forth a rationale for the gap.
The groups also asked Goldman to include in its proxy materials five paragraphs of text in support their proposal. But Goldman's letter, a copy of which it sent to the Cummings Foundation, cites at least one error in the activists' text.
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