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Goldman Sachs CEO Solomon pushes back against critics in CNBC interview

FILE PHOTO: 2023 Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund

By Saeed Azhar and Lananh Nguyen

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon on Thursday responded to a string of critical comments in news reports in recent weeks, saying it was "not fun" to face personal attacks, according to an interview on CNBC.

"I don't recognize the caricature that is painted of me, and when I talk to colleagues and I talk to clients, they don't recognize it either," he said in the interview. "But that doesn't stop me from reflecting on anything that's said, and I always try to think about how I can do better."

His comments came after sources criticized Solomon's hard-charging leadership style and strategy in press reports.

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Goldman Sachs is shedding its consumer businesses after its foray into retail banking flopped. It is also selling fintech firm GreenSky, after offloading most of its unsecured consumer loan portfolio and striking a deal to sell a part of its wealth business.

But the bank is keeping its core Marcus savings business, which Solomon said had over $130 billion in deposits.

The Wall Street giant's profit slumped 60% in the second quarter, missing estimates, as writedowns on its consumer businesses and real estate investments weighed on earnings.

Capital markets were improving, Solomon said. If initial public offerings, including for SoftBank Group's Arm Holdings, go well, that may spur more activity, he said.

"I definitely do feel better about the capital markets," Solomon said in the wide-ranging interview. "If Arm and some of these other IPOs go well, you're going to see a meaningful increase in activity."

Confidence among corporate CEOs has improved, and that will likely lead to a pickup in mergers and acquisitions, Solomon said. But he cautioned the pace of activity could remain slow.

"The economy has been more resilient than what people expected, including me," Solomon said. "The sentiment that I'm hearing from CEOs broadly is, you know, it's time to get back at it."

U.S. consumer spending accelerated in July, but slowing inflation strengthened expectations that the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates unchanged at its policy meeting this month.

Solomon also said U.S. regulatory proposals for stricter bank capital rules have "gone too far." The standards could hurt economic growth by prompting lenders to pull back, without making the banking system safer.

Banks are discussing the proposals with officials, he said.

U.S. regulators in July launched an ambitious effort that would order large banks to set aside billions more in capital to guard against risk.

The proposal to raise capital by 16% overall, put forward by a trio of U.S. bank regulators, would overhaul how banks measure the riskiness of their behavior, and in turn, how much capital they must hold as a cushion.

Solomon, who is a disc jockey in his spare time, was asked by CNBC if he would continue a hobby seen by some as too showy and out of step with the storied firm's culture.

"I am focused on Goldman Sachs," he said.

(Reporting by Saeed Azhar and Lananh Nguyen; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Jamie Freed and Deepa Babington)