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# Goldman and the SEC -- Prosecuting Morality

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Manager
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Goldman and the SEC -- Prosecuting Morality [#permalink]

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19 Apr 2010, 06:53
The SEC dropped a bomb last week by leveling a complaint against Goldman, sending shivers to the financial services sector on the possibility of industry wide investigations. Essentially, the SEC argues that Goldman should have notified investors that the financial product they were buying was selected in part by a party (John Paulson) that was heavily betting against it .

Usually companies such as Goldman go two routes - a mea culpa followed by a fine or the naming and persecution of a 'rogue trader'. In this case, Goldman is doing neither and remarkably saying they did nothing wrong... And they have an incredibly strong case:

* Goldman themselves lost $90M in this transaction -- if they were going to defraud, would they defraud.. themselves? * each one of these bets always has someone on the short and long side -- gamblers take either side, Goldman is just the 'house' arranging the transaction * last and most logically, who is to say that these bets wouldn't have gone the other way? would anyone be complaining then? The SEC is pointing to two things - an email by a young trader suggesting that these products were going to fail and another firm (Bear Stearns) refusal to take on the transaction due to 'moral conflicts'. But these are incredibly dicey waters that require 20/20 hindsight. To suggest that Goldman knew with certainty that these products were inferior defies logic in the most material of Wall Street ways - the$90M that Goldman lost.

This appears to me a prosecution on Goldman's morality (they should have done done more), but I don't really see what Goldman, with any amount of certainty, could have done differently.

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22 Apr 2010, 06:48
The SECs case took a big hit yesterday with the news that Paulson had contacted the ACA already informing them about his bearish view on the financial instruments. The argument of non-disclosure, as tenous as it was, takes a huge hit here given Paulson's conversation.
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Re: Goldman and the SEC -- Prosecuting Morality [#permalink]

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23 Apr 2010, 05:11
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Well, if they had really lost 90 million on Abacus then why would they give Fabrice a 2 million dollar performance bonus following the deal?

I'm sure they did invest in the project. However, it could have very well been a hedge position anyway. They could have had a much larger short position or received large fees from both sides to cover the "90 mil lost".

Honestly, the people at GS are not stupid. They knew that this was ethically questionable but went with it anyway. The only idiots here are ACA and the German banks. ACA, for their role as supposed "bond analysts" (it seems that they just trusted Paulson instead of actually analyzing these securities) and the German Banks for leveraging themselves to the max.

A lot of people seem to think that the SEC's case is weak but this administration seems dedicated to overhauling Wall Street. If not Goldman, then I'm sure they'll turn on some other big firm and use Wall Street as a scapegoat for financial reform. That is the point here -- financial reform; not Goldman. They passed a health care bill which no one thought would pass so I doubt they'll have trouble passing a bill that would take revenge on the Big Bad Banks that the public wants to see punished.
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Re: Goldman and the SEC -- Prosecuting Morality [#permalink]

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25 Apr 2010, 06:07
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Well, during that time, Wall Street bonuses had little to do w/performance -- think merill had over a hundred people make $1M bonuses while getting bailed out. Goldman suffered net losses of$1.7B in residential mortgage products -- http://bit.ly/aNxaOC.

This doesn't feel like fraud to me, but its a highly visible stage to get financial reforms in...maybe end justifies means in this case.

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Re: Goldman and the SEC -- Prosecuting Morality [#permalink]

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25 Apr 2010, 06:46
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Goldman was one firm that came out ahead after the mortgage crisis.

The bonuses given to Merrill executives were to entice them into staying with the company. If you were a money grubbing executive, why would you stay on a sinking ship? (Loyalty? Ha!) As you know, Goldman Sachs is not a firm that needs to entice their employees into staying.

90 million is no chump change. Giving two million to the guy responsible for that loss would be idiotic.

Plus, here's Blankfein's quote on the crisis, “Of course we didn't dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts.”

Again, I am almost positive that the 90 million loss number is rubbish. Why would you make a long bet on the project when the Goldman guy in charge knows that the securities were junk?
Re: Goldman and the SEC -- Prosecuting Morality   [#permalink] 25 Apr 2010, 06:46
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