University News

Simmons ending tenure on Goldman Sachs board

By
Senior Staff Writer

Correction appended.

Goldman Sachs announced in a press release Friday that President Ruth Simmons has decided not to stand for re-election to its Board of Directors at its annual shareholder meeting later this year. The date of the meeting has not yet been announced, according to a Goldman spokesperson.

The release cited “increasing time requirements associated with her position as President of Brown University” as the reason for Simmons’ departure. Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn declined to comment further.

According to the release, Simmons will continue to chair the advisory board of the company’s “10,000 Women” initiative, a Goldman program that seeks to educate and empower female entrepreneurs around the world.

Simmons told The Herald in an interview earlier this month that she did not expect negative publicity about Goldman’s practices to mar the University’s image. The company has received harsh criticism internationally for doling out high bonuses to its executives after receiving money from the federal bailout program.

“I don’t see how it could funnel into the University,” she said of the negative publicity. “It could funnel to me, but not to the University.”

During the interview, conducted a week before the announcement from Goldman, Simmons made no mention of plans to leave the company.

“What I’d like my students to understand is that we all make decisions about what we are going to commit to doing,” she said. “In making that decision, and a commitment, our obligation is to do the best we can and to do it ethically, but not to be buffeted about. I try very hard to be motivated by what I see and by my own judgment, which has been honed over years of experiences like this, and to make decisions based on what I think is right, not on what somebody else thinks.”

She continued: “But I am, like anybody else, very concerned not to put Brown in a difficult position. If I ever thought that my actions did, I would certainly be very concerned about that.”

At the time of the interview, Simmons indicated that were she to leave Goldman’s board, she most likely would not join any other corporate boards.

“At this juncture, I sort of think I would like to devote most of my time to Brown. My guess is that if I leave boards, I’m not going to replace them,” she said.

In the same interview, Simmons said she originally joined Goldman’s board in 2000, while president of Smith College, at the urging of Smith’s Board of Trustees.

“I think we had a good discussion about whether or not the time allocation and the involvement with corporate boards would do anything for my position as president of Smith,” she said. “They were persuaded that it would, and so with some reluctance I acceded to that.”

Simmons said she joined the board around the time Smith started a center for financial literacy on campus.

She called the work she does on Goldman’s board related to women and minorities “meaningful to me in a way that probably a lot of people won’t understand.”

“I think that trying to have an impact on the future of women and minorities in that industry — I think that’s a good thing for me to do,” Simmons said. “It is consistent with the things that I’ve tried to do generally throughout my career. I wouldn’t say that I’ve had the impact that I would have wanted, but I would say that about my presidency at Brown, too.”

Simmons credited her “mental toughness about financial decisions” to her service on Goldman’s board.

When asked what is left for her to learn from Goldman’s board, Simmons responded: “I don’t know. That’s a good question. And that’s a question I’ll have to think about. Maybe I’ll learn as much as I need to learn from the experience.”

“I feel very strongly that I don’t know enough as an individual — a sole individual — to make that decision alone,” she said of when to make the decision to call it quits with Goldman. “I do go back to the Corporation to have this discussion periodically.”

Simmons left her position as a member of Pfizer’s Board of Directors in 2007, citing time constraints as the reason for her departure.

“I left Pfizer because I wanted to have more time as president of Brown,” Simmons said in the interview earlier this month. “But I did say to the Corporation when they invited me to come to Brown, ‘What do you think about the boards that I’m on?’ I always ask, should I continue with what I’m doing or not?”

According to a 2000 interview with Directors and Boards magazine after she accepted the Goldman position, Simmons was hesitant to join the board.

“It’s a wonderful company, but I simply don’t have the time,” the magazine quoted her as initially saying to Goldman. “Besides, I have absolutely nothing to offer you.”

Simmons remains a director on the board of Texas Instruments, on which she has served since 1999.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the date of a Goldman Sachs press release to be Thursday, Feb. 11. In fact, the press release was published Friday, Feb. 12.