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At quiet Salt Lake shareholder meeting, Goldman works on its image
Wall Street » Banking giant refining practices in wake of financial crisis missteps.
First Published May 23 2013 12:19 pm • Last Updated Dec 07 2013 11:32 pm

In an otherwise routine shareholder meeting in Salt Lake City, Goldman Sachs on Thursday released a report detailing actions the Wall Street firm has taken to improve its business practices after a series of embarrassing missteps that stained its reputation in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

CEO Lloyd Blankfein announced publication of the report, which makes 39 recommendations for change, covering client service, financial products it sells and employee incentives. The changes were implemented in February.

At a glance

Four votes draw big ‘no’

Shareholders defeated proposals that would have established a human rights committee, made lobbying expenses more transparent, given shareholders the right to nominate board members and instructed the board to explore the sale or merger of the company.

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"This report represents our priority and continuing commitment to communicate with our clients, shareholders, other stakeholders, regulators and the broader public about the changes we have made — and continue to make — and their impact in making us a better firm," the company said in the report.

Thursday’s event marked the first shareholders meeting Goldman has held outside of New York and New Jersey, where the investment bank has its headquarters. Goldman operations in Salt Lake City are its second-largest in the U.S., with 1,600 employees. That number will rise to 1,700 by the end of this year, Blankfein said Wednesday, during a ceremony marking the graduation of the first local class of Goldman’s 10,000 Small Businesses educational program.

In other business Thursday, shareholders soundly defeated four shareholder proposals. One called on the company to establish a human rights committee. Another requested a report disclosing Goldman’s lobbying policies and expenditures. A third would have given shareholders the right to nominate board members. A fourth would have instructed the board to explore the sale or merger of the company.

The human rights proposal "points to the continuing challenge in the area of human rights that i think all businesses face, particularly in a global climate. Bringing this forward suggests to us and to the company that we do need to pay serious attention to the responsibilities that we face," said the Rev. Seamus Finn, chief of faith consistent investing at OIP Investment Trust in New York. Finn introduced three of the four resolutions on behalf of other shareholders.

All four proposals were voted down on the recommendation of Goldman’s board of directors. No proposal received even 10 percent of the vote in favor.

The meeting was staged under tight security on the 14th floor of 222 S. Main St., where Goldman has its Salt Lake City office. No protesters were evident inside or outside the building. About 160 people attended, including Gov. Gary Herbert, who used the occasion to sell Utah as one of the best places in the U.S. to do business.

"I’m here to tell you that Utah is on the right road and is going in the right direction," Herbert said.

The meeting room offered jaw-dropping views of the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountains, as well as expansive views of the Salt Lake Valley.

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