Doing God’s Work

Forbes Calls Goldman CEO Holier Than Mother Teresa

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

POSTED: September 20, 2:55 PM ET

It reads like an Onion piece, just hilarious stuff. I mean, Jesus, even Lloyd Blankfein himself didn’t go so far as to take the “God’s work” thing 100% seriously, and here’s this jackass saying, without irony, that the Goldman CEO literally out-God-slaps Mother Teresa.

The thing is, for all its excesses, Mr. Catyanker’s piece does reflect an attitude you see pretty often among Rand devotees and Road To Serfdom acolytes. Five whole years have passed since the crash, and there are still huge pockets of these Fountainhead junkies who genuinely believe that the Blankfeins of the world are reviled because they’re bankers and they’re rich, and not because they’re the heads of unprosecutable organized crime syndicates who make their money through mass fraud, manipulation and the shameless burgling of public treasure. In this case you have a guy who writes for Forbes, a business publication,and apparently he isn’t acquainted even casually with any of the roughly 10,000 corruption cases involving Blankfein’s bank.

Just for yuks, let’s fill Binswanger in on some of the ways Goldman has made its money over the years. This is just the stuff they’ve been caught for, by the way.

  • Way back in 1999, several eras of corruption ago, Goldman serially engaged in manipulation of the IPO markets, including illegal tactics like “spinning” and “laddering,” where insiders and top bank clients would be allowed to buy shares in new companies at severely discounted prices, sometimes in return for investment banking business or for promises that those insiders would jump back into the bidding later to jack up the price artificially. In a famous case involving eToys, Goldman paid a $7.5 million settlement for allowing insiders to buy shares at $20, far below the $75 shares the company traded on opening day. The secret discounts might have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars. The firm went bankrupt in short order, by the way.

  • In the infamous “Abacus” case, Goldman teamed up with a hedge-fund billionaire named John Paulson to create a born-to-lose portfolio of mortgage derviatives, which were then marketed by Goldman to a pair of sucker European banks, IKB and ABN-Amro. When the instruments crashed, Paulson made bank on bets he made against his own loser portfolio. Goldman’s peculiar role was in “renting the platform,” i.e. allowing IKB and ABN-Amro to think that neutral Goldman, not a hedge funder like Paulson massively betting against the product, had created the portfolio. Goldman only made $15 million in the deal that ended up causing over a billion in losses, meaning this wasn’t even just about money – they were just trying to curry favor with a hedge fund client out to screw a bunch of Euros.  They were fined $550 million.

  • In the even more absurd Hudson deal, Goldman unloaded a billion-plus sized chunk of toxic mortgage-backed crap on Morgan Stanley during a time when Lloyd “Mother Teresa” Blankfein was telling his minions to unload as much of the firm’s ‘cats and dogs’ as possible, ie. its soon-to-explode subprime holdings. In its marketing materials, Goldman represented to Morgan Stanley that its interests were aligned with Morgan, because Goldman owned a $6 million slice of the Hudson deal. It didn’t disclose that it had a $2 billion bet against it. Morgan Stanley, which was subsequently bailed out by taxpayers like Harry Binswanger, lost $960 million.

  • Goldman paid a fine to the SEC in 2010 after it was caught breaking rules governing short-selling on at least 385 occasions – it is currently embroiled in numerous lawsuits that similarly allege that Goldman has engaged in widespread “naked” short selling, a kind of stock counterfeiting that artificially depresses the prices of companies by flooding the market with phantom shares.

  • Earlier this year, Goldman and Chase agreed to pay a combined $557 million to settle government claims that the banks and/or their mortgage servicing arms engaged in wholesale abuses in the real estate markets, including (but not limited to) robosigning, the practice of mass-producing fictitious, perjured affidavits for the courts for the purposes of foreclosing on homeowners.

  • In what one former SEC official described to me as “an open-and-shut case of anticompetitive behavior,” Goldman took a $3 million payment from J.P. Morgan Chase to bow out of the bidding for a toxic interest rate swap deal Chase wanted to stick to the citizens of Jefferson County, Alabama. Goldman got the payment, a Chase banker joked, “for taking no risk.” Chase ended up funneling money to the County Commissioner, who signed off on a deadly deal that put the citizens of the Birmingham, Alabama area into billions of debt (and ultimately bankruptcy), in what is still considered the largest regional financial disaster in American history.

  • In 2009, a Goldman programmer named Sergey Aleynikov left his office in possession of a code that contained Goldman’s high-frequency trading algorithms. Goldman promptly called the FBI – which up until that point had done exactly zero to prevent crime on Wall Street – to help Mother Teresa’s bank recapture its valuable trading code. In court, a federal prosecutor admitted that the code Aleynikov had in his possession could, “in the wrong hands,” be used to manipulate markets. Aleynikov just pulled an eight-year sentence. Goldman, incidentally, has gone entire quarters without posting a single day of trading loss – in Q1 2010, the bank made at least $25 million every single day, somehow never once betting wrong in 63 trading days. Imagine that! What foresight! What skill! One can see how Mr. Binswanger could believe that the bank’s CEO should be exempt from income taxes.

I could go on – Goldman has been wrapped up in virtually every kind of scandal known to investment banking (and even more that they invented) and was recently at the center of a mysterious and near-catastrophic computer-trading disaster that could have caused massive social damage (more on that in a column coming soon).

The bank is also a truly courageous pioneer in the area of securing completely underserved public bailouts, including the collection of nearly $17 billion in public money for speculative trades with bailed-out AIG and the outrageous receipt of a Commercial Bank Holding Company charter in late September of 2008, allowing it to borrow billions in lifesaving money from the Federal Reserve discount window at a time when Goldman execs were already selling their beach houses for cash in anticipation of the firm’s collapse. Surely even Mr. Binswanger is able to see that Goldman is not, in fact, a commercial bank, and that giving it a commercial bank hat to wear while standing on line to the Fed’s discount window is pure welfare, as inappropriate as LeBron James collecting a federal disability check.

So even forgetting the fact that this company on a good day makes its money rigging metals prices, stage-managing IPOs to help insiders, falsifying documents, selling phony mortgages to institutional investors while betting against their own product and engaging in highly dubious high-speed proprietary trading programs that mysteriously allow the firm to pick winners every single time (Harry, they’re using cheat-algorithms to trade split-seconds ahead of the market, not “digging” legitimately as “knowledge-seekers” for inside information, which I know you think should be legal) – even all that wasn’t enough, and Goldman still would have gone out of business, had all of us parasites not been pressed into service to rescue the company with our tax dollars.

It’s hilarious that these Rand-worshipping cultist types are still blind to this basic fact a half a decade later. And my God, Mother Teresa? Would she have been a more “valuable” person if she’d managed an Applebee’s? What the hell is wrong with you people?

1 comment

  1. ek hornbeck

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