MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Henry Paulson is one of the most well-respected figures on Wall Street. He's worked at Goldman Sachs since 1974 and has run the investment bank since 1999. Paulson has an MBA from Harvard. He worked in the Nixon White House before moving on to Wall Street and in his later years he has been seen as something of a progressive, at least on some issues. NPR's Adam Davidson has this profile.
ADAM DAVIDSON reporting:
Just about everyone on Wall Street, even people who never met him, call him Hank. He gets nearly universal praise for successfully navigating Goldman Sachs through a tumultuous period in the world economy. But he's just as often recognized for his non-business achievements. He's one of the most generous philanthropists in the U.S., says Lisa Endlich, author of the book Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success. He's already donated more than $100 million to charity. This represents a huge percentage of his wealth.
Ms. LISA ENDLICH (Author, Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success): This is an enormous transfer of wealth for an individual, to give away 20% of their personal assets. Something very unusual and something that marks him as somebody deeply, deeply concerned about the public good.
DAVIDSON: Paulson is a major donor to Catalyst, a non-profit that helps women succeed in corporations. His biggest charitable focus has been nature conservation. Paulson is Chairman of the Board of the Nature Conservancy. Some associate these issues most often with Democrats, but Endlich says Paulson's part loyalties are clear.
Ms. ENDLICH: He is in no means a Democrat. He doesn't fit neatly into a pigeonhole, but he's very much a Republican.
DAVIDSON: On economic issues, Paulson seems to largely agree with the administration. He's written several opinion pieces for the Wall Street Journal supporting President Bush's economic policies, particularly tax cuts. Endlich says she doesn't happen to agree with Paulson politically, but she's thrilled that he has been nominated as Treasury Secretary. She says he comes right out of the Goldman Sachs tradition, one that puts long-term thinking and public service on an equal footing with making money. You can see that, she says, in his Conservancy work.
Ms. ENDLICH: These are long-term issues. Conservancy is a long-term issue. You set up national parks and the benefits go into the next century. It's not about what happens this year or next year and I think that speaks to his focus.
DAVIDSON: Those who know Paulson repeatedly use the same words. Sober. Serious. Focused on the long-term. Here's Steve McCormick, President of the Nature Conservancy:
Mr. STEVE McCORMICK (The Nature Conservancy): Hank is not likely to do something because it's considered politically expedient, because it has short-term benefits to the sacrifice of long-term needs.
DAVIDSON: Paulson is literally sober. He, like his parents were, is a devout Christian Scientist. He doesn't drink. He works all the time, McCormick says, often late into the night and on weekends. He does take time off to go bird watching with his wife. He's a well-respected birder. All in all, Paulson is the precise image of a well-respected, thoughtful businessman, says Ted Truman of the Institute for International Economics.
Mr. TED TRUMAN (Institute for International Economics): Well I think this is an appointment that was designed to reassure financial markets.
DAVIDSON: Truman says many in the world are concerned about the U.S. economy. The dollar keeps losing value, the U.S. is increasingly in debt to the rest of the world and there is a great challenge from China. Paulson, Truman says, will be a reassuring presence.
Adam Davidson, NPR News, New York.