David Solomon passed his one-year mark as chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs last month, and is finding the job has some downsides.
“People treat you different as CEO,” the former co-chief operating officer said at the Robin Hood Foundation’s investor conference Tuesday, according to someone familiar with the proceedings. The event is closed to media.
It is “harder to stay connected,” Solomon reportedly told his interviewer Lee Ainslie, head of hedge fund Maverick Capital. Solomon noted that he has to “make a conscious effort to find different ways of doing that — especially with the younger workforce.”
Ainslie had asked Solomon about the biggest challenges he faces as head of the famed bank. Solomon got specific on another hurdle, according to the source: 1MDB. The Malaysian government criminally charged Goldman Sachs and two of its former bankers for allegedly defrauding the country in the bribery scandal, a scheme that diverted billions of dollars illegally from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund.
The scandal “doesn’t threaten the firm,” but “it certainly dents the reputation,” Solomon reportedly told Ainslie Tuesday. “We own the consequences of the actions of some individuals.”
The Robin Hood Foundation — dedicated to alleviating poverty in New York City — counts many of financial biggest names as supporters, and gathered them this week for a closed-door conference in Manhattan.
During his interview, Solomon repeatedly stressed how far out on the risk curve investors have moved. The “jump to reality” will be sharper in a downturn because of this, he said, per the source.
The chance of recession is about one in four over the next 12 months, in Solomon’s view, which he characterized as “very low” but higher than the 15 percent likelihood he’d have wagered six months ago.
As for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Goldman Sachs’ CEO apparently felt that it’s too early for the rampant speculation and didn’t pick a horse in the race. “Policies matter. Actions matter,” he reportedly said. “Whatever direction we go in, there will be consequences.”
Hedge fund titan Bill Ackman of Pershing Square had no such compunction about declaring a favorite candidate, the source said.
Ackman told the audience he liked two Democratic candidates: Corey Booker — “but he hasn’t gotten much traction, [and is] perceived as ‘Kumbaya’”— and South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg.
“First time I saw him, I said, ‘He’s going to be the next president.’ The country needs a young president,” Ackman said, according to the source. “People are tired of 70-plus year old people telling the country how to live. He’s a veteran. He’s run a small city. He has really good answers. He is totally authentic. Energetic.”
Ackman remains bullish on Chipotle, and retains a big position in the fast-casual Mexican food chain. Asked about his last order, the hedge fund manager reportedly said, “I’m now doing the vegan thing, so I ordered the sofritas.”