Goldman Sachs speaks for the first time in French.

June 16, 2010

Jacques-Olivier Charron just sent this tidbit to the French SSFA list. It’s an interview on the France 1 channel between journalist Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, and Yoel Zaoui speaking on behalf of Goldman in Europe for the first time in French. Jacques-Olivier notes that Zaoui visibly reads prepared notes to answer what appear to be a series of entirely preplanned questions.

The main message: Goldman embraces borderless regulation (not European regulation) and insists that it has followed all the rules.

Highlight: Elkabbach’s best attempt to break the script, fails. [2:55]

YZ – ‘…The vitality of finance, has, in a sense evolved faster than regulation. Which lead to excess. Yes, certainly.’

JPE – [Interjection] ‘So Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy are correct to demand more regulation, immediately.’

YZ – ‘…But we must be very careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.’

JPE – [Dryly] ‘What does that mean?’

YZ – [Reading stiffly] ‘In periods of crisis we need scapegoats. And today the scapegoat is finance. But finance is not an illness. I would even say that finance is the vitamines of the world economy. We can not forget that it is because of finance and the distributive function [courroie de transmission] it plays that individuals, households, businesses, states have developed…’

JPE -[Piercingly] ‘That’s lovely. Very lyrical. It’s lovely. But it’s the excesses that are decried, when it goes badly. The dyfunctioning. That’s normal. And you know it.

oel Zaoui

5 Responses to “Goldman Sachs speaks for the first time in French.”

  1. danielbeunza Says:

    I am not sure I get the point of this blog post.

  2. marthapoon Says:


    The point is in the video, in the image of a spokesperson nervously shuffling through papers and reading a script in response to a journalist’s questions when the very purpose of the interview is to show *open communication* with the French public for the first time. (For those who don’t understand French the translation is to give meaning to the stiffness of the exchange.) Compare to the easiness of this interview with Blankfein in which the NYTimes uses it’s extraordinary access to focus on a rather easier topic, his personal managerial style:

    What does it mean for these institutions to communicate? What does it mean for journalists to have access? How are these relationships negotiated? It certainly seems to mean something very different in France than in the US… But it is happening, even in France, nonetheless.

  3. danielbeunza Says:

    Thank you. This is interesting. Although these skilled acts may have their downsides. One of the interesting comments that Mitch Abolafia made at the Reembedding Finance conference, in connection to Blackfein’s performance at the Goldman hearings, is that the bankers are so good at these that in the end, unlike in the Pecora hearings in the 1930s, the current hearings have not worked as an act where “the public” can understand where or how things went wrong with the credit crisis.

  4. Jacques-Olivier Charron Says:

    A very good communication performance can prevent a public understanding, but so does a very bad one. This is the case of Yoel Zaoui’s interview, which is a striking example of what is called in french “langue de bois” (I can’t recall a good translation, but the orwellian term newspeak partially captures the idea of a language that does not make room for thinking). We clearly don’t learn anything in this interview about the credit crisis or the greek crisis, but what we learn is that this Goldman Sachs executive describes a world that is so far from these realities that it is a surreal experience to hear it. I think what “the public” feels here is that this guy really comes from outer space.

  5. Glad to see that they actually have something to say. Maybe now we can move on from here and get past this debacle.

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