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Ex-SEC Chairman Defends Goldman: 'Nobody Really Puts Customers First'

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 03/29/2012 12:55 pm Updated: 03/29/2012 5:54 pm

Arthur Levitt Goldman Sachs

That old adage that the customer is always right might be true. Whether it matters is up for debate.

“Nobody really puts customers first,” Arthur Levitt, the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and now a policy advisor for Goldman Sachs, told Bloomberg TV Thursday.

“Business is a tension between sellers and buyers, and that tension always exists,” he added.

His remarks come as Goldman faces increased public scrutiny over its treatment of clients. Greg Smith, a former employee that resigned from the firm via an op-ed in The New York Times earlier this month, criticized Goldman, saying that executives often refer to clients as "muppets" and value profit above all else -- including serving customers.

But Levitt isn't the only prominent name to come in defense of Goldman's culture. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Smith's op-ed “ridiculous,” suggesting that the company’s priority has always been to make money.

Partly in response to negative public perception, Wall Street firms have recently been shifting their focus from financial performance to customer service, according to a recent report.

Levitt said he disagrees with the new approach, telling Bloomberg TV that Goldman Sachs should focus on its “competence,” rather than prioritizing customers. “Let’s not create a fellowship between buyers and sellers which will march into the sunset,” he said during the interview.

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