Goldman hires ex-Geithner aide as top spokesman

Tue Mar 13, 2012 4:16pm EDT

* Richard "Jake" Siewert to lead global communications

* Previously worked in Clinton and Obama administrations

* Appointment comes as president pledges to hold Wall St accountable

By Lauren Tara LaCapra

March 13 (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc has reached into Democratic circles to find its new top spokesman, Richard "Jake" Siewert.

On Tuesday, the bank announced in an internal memo that Siewert, a veteran of the Clinton and Obama administrations, would become its new global head of corporate communications, replacing departing public relations chief Lucas van Praag.

The 48-year-old Siewert spent eight years as a spokesman and adviser in the Clinton administration and most recently was a top aide to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

At Goldman, Siewert has received the title of managing director, a senior-level position, according to a memo sent by John F. W. Rogers, Goldman's chief of staff and board secretary.

A Goldman spokesman confirmed the contents of the memo.

Goldman said in a separate memo last month that van Praag would be leaving the bank at the end of March, one in a string of several high-level departures. [ID: nL2E8ECFSE]

The sharp-tongued van Praag had drawn criticism for his handling of public outrage at Goldman in the wake of the financial crisis, defending Goldman executives' actions and their multimillion-dollar pay packages, and often telling reporters in public statements that their stories were half-baked or unintelligent.

Siewert turned down offers to work on Wall Street after pursuing - but not completing - a law degree at the University of California at Berkeley, according to a biography on the Washington Post's WhoRunsGov Web site.

Instead, the bespectacled spokesman began his career in Washington as communications director for the Democratic Governors Association in 1991. Two years later he joined the Clinton White House and stayed there until the president left office, working as a press secretary and special assistant to the president for economic affairs.

Between political stints, Siewert was a communications executive at Alcoa Inc from 2001 to 2009. Before accepting the Goldman position, he was said to be considering a similar job at PepsiCo Inc.

He leaves the Obama administration for Goldman at a time when Wall Street wealth is a major topic of discussion in the run-up to the presidential election.

The financial industry is facing protests from groups like Occupy Wall Street and many government investigations for its role in the subprime housing crisis. In his State of the Union speech in January, President Obama pledged to hold Wall Street accountable with a new investigative task force.

So far this year, Goldman and its employees have donated $3 million to election campaigns, with 21 percent going to Democratic candidates. In 2008, the bank and its workers donated $6.1 million, with 75 percent pledged to Democratics.

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