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Goldman Brushes Off the Gadfly

Lloyd C. Blankfein has his share of critics, but perhaps none are more vocal than Evelyn Y. Davis, an outspoken gadfly with a long history of haranguing corporate executives at annual meetings.

Evelyn Y. Davis at the Ford Motor Company's annual meeting last year.
William Thomas Cain | Getty Images
Evelyn Y. Davis at the Ford Motor Company's annual meeting last year.

It turns out that Ms. Davis may have a new reason to dislike Mr. Blankfein: Goldman Sachs canceled its $7,200 subscription to her annual newsletter, Highlights and Lowlights, according to a person briefed on the matter but who was not authorized to speak on the record.

Highlights and Lowlights includes many snapshots of Ms. Davis glad-handing chief executives and her take on corporate governance.

Ms. Davis, however, said Wednesday that while she was not a fan of Mr. Blankfein, she was not aware that Goldman had canceled its subscription.

“I don’t keep up with that,” she said. “I am a multi-multimillionaire, and I don’t need anyone’s subscription.”

Ms. Davis and Mr. Blankfein are expected to face off on Friday when Goldman shareholders meet for the firm’s annual meeting.

Ms. Davis, who lives in Washington, charges $600 an issue for Highlights and Lowlights. Subscribers are required to buy at least two copies, she said. Ms. Davis gives away her newsletter at annual meetings.

Executives at several banks contacted by DealBook say that Ms. Davis encourages banks to buy numerous copies and that most banks pay $5,000 and more a year for the newsletter.

When one executive was asked why his bank subscribed to the newsletter, he said it was a move to shut her up.

Depending on your view, Ms. Davis, 81, is either a positive force for corporate change or a professional harasser of executives. She tends to hijack annual meetings, interrupting executives’ speeches to push her own agenda.

She employs various techniques to grab attention, including loud outbursts and rushing to stage to hug chief executives. She calls herself the “Queen of the Corporate Jungle.”

The newsletter is part vanity play, chock full of grinning pictures of Ms. Davis with corporate chiefs.

It includes a letters to the editor section. One letter states: “Dear Evelyn: We missed YOU at OUR annual meeting.” It is signed “SEVERAL CEO’S!!!”.

Parts of the newsletter are written in capital letters. Ms. Davis is also a big fan of the exclamation mark. “The euro could very easily go back to par with the dollar and even go lower!!!,” she wrote in her latest issue.

She is no fan of Goldman or Mr. Blankfein, but that wasn’t always the case. In 2003 she gave Henry M. Paulson Jr., then the chief executive, a hug on stage when he told shareholders about his plans to travel to Shanghai despite concerns about the SARS virus spreading through parts of Asia.

But the relationship has soured over the years. At Goldman’s 2009 annual meeting, she criticized a board member, Stephen Friedman, who resigned as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York after a controversy erupted over his purchase of some Goldman shares.

In a long diatribe, Ms. Davis called Mr. Friedman a “disgrace.” Mr. Blankfein called Ms. Davis’s attack “beyond the pale.” After this outburst, the firm did not renew its subscription.

At the meeting in 2010, she called for Mr. Blankfein’s resignation. This year’s issue of her newsletter has a page dedicated to Goldman Sachs. She refers to Mr. Blankfein as ‘Lord Goldmine.”

In an interview, she said she planned to again ask Mr. Blankfein to resign this Friday. “Every day there is a new scandal there,” she said.

Ms. Davis said she was also upset with the Wall Street firm because when she once asked to deposit some of her fortune at the firm, she was told she could not because she was not a client. “I like to spread my wealth around,” she said.

A Goldman spokesman declined to comment.