Investment bank behemoth Goldman Sachs is used to coaching its employees on proper online behavior. The company caused howls from media outlets this year after instructing its workers not to use expletives in emails (as if they wouldn’t have known pushing “shitty” deals was inappropriate). It has blocked employees from commenting on popular Wall Street tabloid Dealbreaker. And most significantly, it has banned the use of Facebook and other social networks.
This wouldn’t come as too much of a surprise–other big finance firms such as Morgan Stanley block social networking sites too–except for the fact that Goldman Sachs just invested $450 million in Facebook, a service its 35,400 employees are discouraged from using. Could that soon change?
Multiple requests to Goldman Sachs for comment were not returned, but according to one source at the company, Facebook is still banned, despite the huge injection of capital. When accessing Facebook.com, employees are initially denied access, and receive a message which explains that Facebook is prohibited by firm policy, and that any access to the site will be logged and audited. By entering the site, employees acknowledge that they understand the firm’s policy–that the site can be accessed for “legitimate business” only.
One “legitimate business” use of Facebook? To make sure its employees, at the very least, understand what Facebook is and are able to explain the product. According to Bloomberg, Facebook CFO David Ebersman demoed the site this week for Goldman’s private wealth-management group, which is being trained on how best to pitch the social network to older, less tech-savvy clients.
Of course, banning social networking sites is not only a matter of monitoring confidential and internal communication but also an issue of productivity. Back in 2007, one Goldman Sachs trader reportedly received the following message from the IT department, after spending an excessive (read: insane!) amount of time on Facebook:
“It has come to our attention that you have been spending a considerable amount of time on a website known as ‘The Facebook.’ This is unacceptable since firm regulations do not permit usage of social networking sites,” the warning read. “Your combined total usage time over the past six months has now exceeded 500 hours (the equivalent of over four hours daily), which we feel would normally be sufficiently high to render us duty-bound to inform your manager.”
Perhaps he was just doing research.