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11:39 AM
Melanie Rodier
Melanie Rodier
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What Email? For Goldman Sachs, Voicemail Is Still Best

Lloyd Blankfein told jurors at the insider trading trial of Raj Rajaratnam, that he sometimes does not read his e-mail and prefers instead to listen to voice mail.

For most financial executives - and the public at large - , tapping away on a BlackBerry or an iPhone today has become the easiest way to communicate. Not so for Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, who says he much prefers 'voicemail' to any other form of communication.

To many, this is a flash from the past. A call back to the days before email and texting, when people actually used a phone to speak and left messages that other people actually listened to.

But Blankfein, once reportedly a BlackBerry addict, told jurors at the insider trading trial of Raj Rajaratnam, that he sometimes does not read his e-mail and prefers instead to listen to voice mail.(Though picking up a phone and listening to a person speak in real-time would of course be another option).

He told the court that he typically digests the day's daily profit and loss statement via voice mail.

From the New York Times:

"Once I am informed, I am not looking to necessarily read about it," he testified. "If it's something that sounds like a typical day, I will just let it go and just listen to the voice mail."

On the one hand, this is hardly surprising. Goldman has long had a culture of leaving voice mail, well before e-mail became a goldmine for investigating regulators. Executives joke that they "do voice mail." Roy Zuckerberg, a senior executive at Goldman Sachs during the 1980s and '90s, used to tell trainees that he would do more than an hour of voice mail a night. Goldman staffers [have always checked] their voice mail constantly, even before emails became a goldmine for prosecutors and regulators.

Mr. Blankfein's predecessor as chief executive, Henry M. Paulson Jr., was also a fan of the spoken word. Voice mail was his preferred method of communication, and in 2002 he famously used voice mail staffwide to apologize for his "80-20 comment, when he remarked that 20 percent of the staff members added 80 percent of the value.

"It was a glib and totally insensitive response, which is totally at odds with the way I think about the people here," he told employees in a voice mail.

Goldman's preference for talking over writing was underscored by e-mails that emerged as a result of investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and by Congress. (The S.E.C. accused the firm of deceiving clients by selling them mortgage securities secretly designed to fail by a hedge fund firm, allegations Goldman later settled without admitting or denying guilt.)

In e-mail messages found by investigators, Goldman executives would often sign off with "LDL" -- short for let's discuss live.

But Mr. Blankfein's preference for voice mail over e-mail took some Wall Street insiders by surprise.

He was an early adopter of the BlackBerry. Goldman Sachs executives say that years ago, before he became chief executive in 2006, they would often get e-mail from Mr. Blankfein in the middle of the night.

At one point in his career, Mr. Blanfkein traded the Japanese yen and while out of the office got currency trades on his pager.

In those days, before he had a driver, he typically took the Seventh Avenue subway line home and often waited for the train at the top of the subway stairs rather than stand on the underground platform where his pager would not work.

When the train came, he would make a run for it, ensuring he had the latest quotes before heading underground."

Melanie Rodier has worked as a print and broadcast journalist for over 10 years, covering business and finance, general news, and film trade news. Prior to joining Wall Street & Technology in April 2007, Melanie lived in Paris, where she worked for the International Herald ... View Full Bio
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