Effectively saying ‘No Comment’ to a newspaper which is about to print something negative about you is nearly always a big mistake. Today The Times carried a story, sourced from Davos, that Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein – chief whipping boy in the bankers’ bonuses debate – could be in line for a bonus of up to $100m; see http://bit.ly/9OGkae
The paper reports that the bank originally turned down an offer to deny the story, which duly appeared and immediately went around the world. Later on – too late – its spokesman, no doubt deafened by his phone ringing off the hook, came back to the paper to say ‘the idea that the directors would award Lloyd Blankfein $100 million, or anything close to it, beggars belief.’ (The overly cynical would suggest this is something of a classic ‘non-denial denial’). This was later incorporated in the online edition of the story – but by then it was of course far too late. The net result is that the story reverberated around every news website and talk show in the universe, adding yet more incendiary fuel to the bonus debate, very much against Goldman’s interests. If perception is reality, the $100m figure became ‘fact’. If the story really was so way off the mark, why didn’t they come straight back and say so in the first place?
Update February 6: Goldman announces the CEO’s bonus will be limited to $9m.