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9/21/15

Goldman Sachs and the Vatican: Two Cultures of Infallibility - by Stephan Richter

From the perspective of Goldman’s management, the recent path of the Catholic Church is probably the most nightmarish thing to think about — assuming their imagination and sense of seriousness reaches this far.

Look at the long list of parallels: None, of course, is more powerful — and disastrous — than Goldman’s and the Vatican’s unceasing belief in the doctrine of infallibility.

The rot, one says, starts at the top — and in the age of democracy and participatory learning, no organization can successfully hold onto the belief that, as far as dealings with the outside world are concerned, its staff members are really incorrigible.

I am not suggesting that there isn’t plenty of rigorous debate about the organizations’ direction and business (or spiritual) practices — but it occurs strictly in the inner sanctum.

The instrument of doubt plays a role in both organizational learning cultures. However, it is viewed solely as a method of rigorous inquisition to come to a decision internally, which — once made — is upheld externally with a united front. One for all, all for one.

With regard to interactions with the outside, such a frame of mind can quickly result in presenting a fiercely clannish, if not secretive, front. That unquestioned commitment to the cause, 24x7x365, surely breeds a strong internal culture, but it also makes the organization as a whole ripe for systemic denial. In short, wrongdoing simply cannot occur because we are perfect, aren’t we?

What Goldman must realize is that the Vatican had tried to hush things up. It simply could not happen here, it argued. But the harder and longer it tried, the more pushback there was among the victims.

It is simply inconceivable that a firm with the breadth and depth of Goldman’s client dealings in the markets — and its relentless hunger for profit maximization — did not leave behind a lot of broken china.

The second applicable lesson for Goldman which the Vatican’s troubles foreshadow is this: While child molestation and sexual abuse are definitely qualitatively different charges than manipulating financial markets, the ultimate fallout of denial on one’s reputation, financial well-being and inner morale may well be the same.

It all starts with the inner logic of the real temptation — “overlooking” the respective crime in question. Regarding the internal culture of the two organizations, there are stunning parallels.

Both cultures are rooted in an intense sense of loyalty to the “company.” Both firms’ staff members have a strong sense of mission, even though one is very much focused on the immaterial, while the other is very material-minded.

Readmore: Goldman Sachs and the Vatican: Two Cultures of Infallibility - The Globalist

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