It should be clear that the title doesn't refer to Goldman Sachs' (NYSE:GS) common shares, which have more than doubled in price since the market's March 9 low. Instead, it's the investment bank's reputation with the general public and financially sophisticated Americans which has taken a beating this year, according to a survey of 17,000 Americans performed on behalf of the Financial Times (You weren't polled? You'll get your chance below.) But does this harm Goldman's franchise?

Potential clients: OK
Fortune compiles an annual ranking of the world's most admired companies by polling businesspeople (i.e. Goldman's potential clients). It's true that Goldman's rank fell to 15th in 2009 from 10th in 2008, but the longer-term trend doesn't reveal any substantial damage to its reputation, as the following table shows:


2009 Rank

2006 Rank

Bank of America (NYSE:BAC)


Between 20 and 303

Citigroup (NYSE:C)

Lower than 363

Between 20 and 303

Goldman Sachs



JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM)


Lower than 303

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS)

Between 50 and 363

Lower than 303

Source: Fortune.

Between 2006 (the year prior to the start of the credit crisis) and 2009, the biggest loser in this group appears to be Citigroup, and the biggest winner JPMorgan Chase. No real surprises there; meanwhile, Goldman Sachs's rank -- near the top of the table -- looks pretty stable, with the firm actually gaining a few spots. Even the results reported by the Financial Times showed that Goldman still leads Morgan Stanley in a category called "energized differentiation," which, crucially, is related to pricing power.

Potential employees: OK
Furthermore, among another critical constituency -- the talent pool the firm recruits from -- the firm's reputation also looks unharmed. Goldman Sachs ranked 4th in Fortune's 100 Top MBA Employers in 2009 -- firms where MBA students say they'd most like to work. It was ranked third in 2006, behind consultancy McKinsey and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).

Legislators: Not OK
Has Goldman come through this crisis completely unscathed? Not quite: It has attracted plenty of negative attention from a very powerful constituency -- lawmakers. Combine that with the public outrage that the results of the Financial Times poll hint at, and you have a threat to your franchise. Goldman would do well to keep its head down and meditate on its second business principle, which begins:

"Our assets are our people, capital and reputation. If any of these is ever diminished, the last is the most difficult to restore."

It's your turn to give your opinion on Goldman in the Motley Fool's own poll.

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Alex Dumortier, CFA has no beneficial interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.