Goldman gives $500 million to small businesses

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc GS.N, facing criticism over its outsized profits and bonuses, will contribute $500 million to programs that help small businesses, the company said on Tuesday.

Goldman set aside nearly $17 billion in the first three quarters of 2009 to pay employees, just months after it repaid the $10 billion it borrowed from taxpayers.

Goldman’s 10,000 Businesses initiative will commit $300 million to help small businesses get capital. The initiative also will commit $200 million for business and management education programs.

The advisory council for the initiative will include Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, investor Warren Buffett and Michael Porter of Harvard Business School.

Repairing Goldman’s image has been a central topic for the investment bank, as it confronts political pressures and populist anger over its quick turnaround and perceived lack of concern over the economic downturn.

Blankfein was quoted in London’s Sunday Times newspaper earlier this month as saying he is just a banker doing “God’s work” -- stoking public anger even more.

But in recent months, Blankfein has made several appearances at which he acknowledged his company’s role in the financial crisis, while also touting its charitable side.

Blankfein apologized on Tuesday for Goldman’s role in the financial crisis while speaking at an event in New York, according to Bloomberg News.

One often-referenced program is Goldman’s 10,000 Women initiative, which is designed to provide business and management education for women in underserved parts of the world.

Goldman also announced last month that it donated $200 million to the Goldman Sachs Foundation, its charitable arm. That announcement came on the same day Goldman reported third- quarter net income of more than $3 billion.

The company’s pledge to help small businesses get access to credit comes a month after the Obama administration unveiled a plan to boost small business lending. The administration said it would provide low-cost taxpayer capital to community banks that they could for small business loans.

The total of Goldman’s small business initiative -- $500 million -- is just a fraction of the $10.6 billion the company is expected to report in net income this year, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The small business initiative is “a good first step” in addressing the image concerns, said Michael Robinson, a financial and crisis public relations consultant with Levick Strategic Communications.

“The test for them will be whether they continue it over the long run,” Robinson added.

Reporting by Steve Eder and Karey Wutkowski; editing by Tim Dobbyn and Andre Grenon