Explanation of the SEC Charges against Goldman Sachs

I’m sure you’ve heard the recent news that the SEC has charged Goldman Sachs with fraud for misleading some of its investors. At the core of the complaint is that Goldman structured and marketed a synthetic CDO but failed to disclose key aspects of the product. The key aspect in question here is that the architect of the CDO hand picked the pieces of the CDO and then bet against it.

If you read the complaint and are still unsure what happened, this video explanation by Patty Hirsch on Marketplace will explain it with an easily understood analogy and the absence of much editorial (which is hard to find these days):
(Click to continue reading…)


Goldman Sachs Online Bank?

There have been news reports that Goldman Sachs, which recently became a bank holding company, might be considering opening an online bank as a means to generate deposits. Yesterday, Marketplace did a story about the report and here were some interesting quotes (and you should’ve heard these two guys too):

HOWARD DAVIDOWITZ (retail consultant in New York): This is a company that deals at the highest levels with America’s largest corporations, in the most sensitive sorts of deals, with the wealthiest people in the world. I don’t see how this enhances their brand.

JON OGG (investment advisor): If they want to do that, then they might as well start selling stamps online too.

I loved how these two guys seemed to look down at people who use online banks as somehow beneath them. I’ll take my 100% safe, government guaranteed high yield savings account thank you very much.

There was one quote that I did agree with:

RICHARD SPEER: There’s no shortage of Internet banking offerings. In general, most of those have been very successful in attracting high-rate deposits. They have not been successful in building relationships.

There are a lot of online banks and there isn’t much relationship building going on. I’m going to send my deposits to whichever bank will offer me the highest rates. However, I’d argue that I have no relationship with Bank of America, the bank that I have my checking account with, either. I’d also say that outside of my business checking accounts with M&T Bank, I’ve never had a relationship with any bank I’ve done business with.

Speer is right, if they want deposits, they’ll have to pony up a good interest rate.

 Personal Finance 

AIG’s $443k Party to Celebrate $85B Bailout

It’s absolutely insulting that AIG spent $443,343 on a retreat just days after the Feds bailed out the company with a $85 billion infusion that sucked 80% of the firm away into the Federal abyss.

It’s my personal opinion that C-level executives are overpaid by the conventions of mere mortals but the reality is that their salaries and benefits are the result of what the market will and can bear. Goldman Sachs CEO earned $74M last year, Lehman Brothers chief Richard Fuld defended his $71.9M payday (it wasn’t as much as before the bankruptcy though!), and ex-CEO of Bear Stearns James Cayne earned $49.31M over the last two years. It’s an ungodly sum of money, especially for companies that are either dead or on life support, but that’s how the game is played. You take the heat with one hand and the cash with the other.

What AIG did? Spending nearly half a million on a retreat at the St. Regis Report in Monarch Beach? That’s like someone spitting in your face. If I had any business with AIG, I’d seriously reconsider it.

Rock Out With Your Bailout [The Smoking Gun]

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