June 15, 2010— -- As if a nearly two-year siege of negative attention hasn't been enough of a distraction for Goldman Sachs, now the controversial investment bank appears to be battling a potential bed bug problem.
Employees who work in Goldman's Jersey City, N.J., office tower have been moved from certain floors and ordered out of the building at times because exterminators have been in checking and spraying for bed bugs, said two separate sources at the firm. Neither source was comfortable being quoted by name, citing company policy.
A Goldman Sachs spokeswoman issued ABCNews.com a statement: "We're always focused on our facilities and there are no issues." The spokeswoman would not comment on whether the building had been treated.
However, sources at the firm said exterminators last month were spraying for bed bugs on several different floors in Goldman's Jersey City office building. Floors were evacuated and dogs and pesticides were brought in. One person was moved to another floor and not allowed to take anything from the desk.
Another non-Goldman source but who is connected with the office tower's operations confirmed the spraying but added that it was done as a precautionary measure following a report from some employees there who had experienced issues with bed bugs -- outside the office. Exterminators told ABC News that companies rarely, if ever, bring in dogs and pesticides as a precautionary measure but only when enough complaints have been lodged or a problem apparent. At the same time, a full-blown response to even a whiff of bed bugs is nevertheless consistent with Goldman, a firm with deep pockets and an ongoing public relations problem post financial crisis.
"I suppose this is one way the folks on Wall Street can relate to the pain and suffering found on Main Street," joked Suzanne McGee, author of "Chasing Goldman Sachs," a new book about Wall Street's woes. "Clearly, though, they have bigger and more crucial issues to confront, such as dealing with regulators and refurbishing their battered image. Still, if the bedbug problem is widespread and related to their workplace, that's just going to be one more blow to the employees' morale. The firm has enough image problems without this."
Cases on the Rise
Meanwhile, just across the river from Jersey City, bed bug infestations are on the rise in New York, according to the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York Department of Housing, Preservation & Development. HPD violations relating to bed bug cases have risen sharply in Manhattan over the past decade. In 2004, there were 17 violations. Last year there were 717, although the advent of 311 system for renters to lodge complaints and an overall awareness of the problem could play a part in that spike, an HPD spokesman said. But bed bugs are thriving, and not just in the beds and couches of apartment residences.
"As busy as we have been dealing with bed bug problems in residences, we've been even busier going into offices," said Jeff Eisenberg, president of New York-based Pest Away Exterminators. Eisenberg said his company has no extermination contracts with Goldman.
"While it may not be as common for bed bug infestations to occur in the office as they are at home or in hotels, bed bugs can populate and thrive in any environment where they will have consistent access to blood meals," said Dan Bradbury, vice president of Viking Pest Control in Bridgewater, N.J. "If bed bugs are introduced into an office setting they will surely cause grief for anyone working there."
A 2007 outbreak of bed bugs in the Fox News newsroom prompted a civil lawsuit against the companies that own and manage the Manhattan building where Fox is headquartered. The case has not yet been resolved according to an attorney for the employee. The attorney for the building, Beacon Capital Partners, did not immediately return a call for comment. Former President Bill Clinton's Harlem offices also reportedly had a publicized bout with the tiny, wingless insects whose bites produce itchy welts.
The creatures are notoriously hard to eradicate because they can hide in tiny cracks and go up to a year without feeding. When they do find a host, they pierce the skin with two hollow feeding tubes, one of which injects its saliva, and the other for extracting its meal of blood. They feed for several minutes, then scurry back to hide. Most people don't get a reaction to the bite until hours or even days later.
Bed bugs hate the sunlight and are nocturnal creatures, but office buildings provide many opportunities for them to feed as well as places to hide.
Located across the Hudson River from Goldman's recently opened headquarters in lower Manhattan, the 42-story Goldman Sachs Tower at 30 Hudson Street in Jersey City is mainly home to Goldman's operational and technology support divisions, and also serves as a disaster recovery location, with a large trading floor that stays empty save for the occasional planning exercise.
Post-financial crisis, Goldman has been the focus of regulatory (and, according to several news sources, possible criminal) probes, not to mention a relentless backlash from foreign governments, union protestors and the media. Goldman hasn't gotten much sympathy over its role in the financial crisis, although a case of bed bugs might at least show that the rich aren't so different after all.