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Goldman Sachs, Buffett to help small businesses

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - 14:32

New York: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Tuesday it is teaming with billionaire investor Warren Buffett to invest USD 500 million to provide thousands of small business owners across America with college scholarships and boost their access to capital.

The move comes as the company has been criticized for setting aside billions for employee paychecks despite the continuing weak economy.

Goldman's philanthropic effort, called "10,000 Small Businesses," includes a USD 200 million contribution to community colleges, universities and other institutions to give grants to small business owners to further their education.

The New York-based bank also will invest USD 300 million through a combination of lending and charitable support. Goldman said the money will be funneled through community development financial institutions to boost lending and technical assistance available to small businesses in underserved communities.

In addition, Goldman Sachs executives, in partnership with national and local business organizations, will aid small businesses with advice, technical assistance and professional networking opportunities.

An advisory council co-chaired by Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein will oversee the program. Legendary investor and Goldman's largest shareholder, Warren Buffett, and Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter will serve as co-chairs as well.

"Our recovery is dependent on hard working small business owners across America who will create the jobs that America needs," Buffett said in a statement. "I'm proud to be a part of this innovative program which provides greater access to know-how and capital — two ingredients critical to success."

The initiative comes as Goldman has started to see a rebound across many of its businesses even as the broader economy and consumers continue to struggle with rising unemployment and mounting loan losses. The bank, which has outperformed other financial companies for years, has been the strongest in its industry throughout the financial crisis. It had less exposure to toxic mortgage-backed securities than other companies and also has been more aggressive in its trading.

Its continued strength throughout the downturn allowed Goldman to quickly repay the USD 10 billion government bailout it received at the height of the credit crisis. That repayment was also done, in part, to rid the bank of restrictions on annual compensation that were attached to the loan.

Goldman set aside USD 16.71 billion through the first nine months of the year for compensation, including salaries, bonuses and other benefits. The potential payouts its workers may receive for 2009 have drawn criticism from lawmakers and others. Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, on Monday led a protest in front of Goldman's Washington, D.C., offices to try to sway the bank to redirect part of its anticipated USD 23 billion bonus pool to families facing foreclosure

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - 14:32
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