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FintechProptech

Goldman Sachs: No-go for IPOs if all bros

The investment bank is taking a stand against “bro culture” on startup boards

As goes Goldman Sachs, so goes Wall Street. When a memo went out last year from CEO David Solomon telling staff that formal business attire was no longer an everyday requirement, it confirmed that casualwear had finally come to Wall Street.

And, when the venerated investment bank started slashing bonuses in the decade after the 2008 mortgage-bond meltdown, the financial services industries knew the golden age of multi-million-dollar bonuses that incentivized risk-taking was waning.

Now, Goldman Sachs is taking a stand against “bro culture” on startup boards. Speaking on Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Solomon said Goldman Sachs will refuse to take a company public unless it had at least one “diverse” board member.

The new rule goes into effect on July 1 in the United States and Europe, and the initial push for diversity will start with a focus on women, Solomon said. By 2021, the bank will look for two diverse board members, he said.

In a CNBC interview, Solomon said public offerings of U.S. companies with at least one female director over the past four years performed “significantly better” than those without.

“We might lose some business but in the long run this is the best advice for companies that want to drive premium returns for their shareholders,” Solomon said. “I look back at IPOs over the last four years and the performance of IPOs where there has been a woman on the board in the U.S. is significantly better than the performance of IPOs where there hasn’t been a woman on the board.”

Goldman Sachs has an 11-member board that includes four women.

“I really value the diverse perspectives that I’m getting that help me to run the company,” Solomon said.

Solomon didn’t cite proptech startup WeWorks, but it was the elephant – or the unicorn, to use the nickname for private companies valued at more than $1 billion – in the room. It went from an initial $47 billion valuation to bankruptcy in the second half of 2019.

Goldman was one of the investment banks slated to lead WeWork’s IPO, if it hadn’t been pulled because of questions about governance and valuation. WeWork’s initial IPO filing named a seven-member board that was all men.

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