Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

When the World is Going Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around

...after all, all that money has to go somewhere.

...Rarely on Wall Street, where money travels in herds, has one firm gotten it so right when nearly everyone else was getting it so wrong. So far, three banking chief executives have been forced to resign after the debacle, and the pay for nearly all the survivors is expected to be cut deeply...

Nearly all, meaning the little people, of course.

...Late last year, as the markets roared along, David A. Viniar, Goldman’s chief financial officer, called a “mortgage risk” meeting in his meticulous 30th-floor office in Lower Manhattan.

At that point, the holdings of Goldman’s mortgage desk were down somewhat, but the notoriously nervous Mr. Viniar was worried about bigger problems. After reviewing the full portfolio with other executives, his message was clear: the bank should reduce its stockpile of mortgages and mortgage-related securities and buy expensive insurance as protection against further losses, a person briefed on the meeting said. ..

Funny how nobody could see that except for Goldman-Sachs, Atrios, and pretty much the entire progressive bubble of cyberspace.

...Even Goldman, which saw the problems coming, continued to package risky mortgages to sell to investors. Some of those investors took losses on those securities, while Goldman’s hedges were profitable.

When the credit markets seized up in late July, Goldman was in the enviable position of having offloaded the toxic products that Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, UBS, Bear Stearns and Morgan Stanley, among others, had kept buying...

That touches me, somewhere. You could call it the Colonel Amerika way.

...Robert E. Rubin, a former Goldman head, is the new chairman of Citigroup. In Washington, another former chief, Henry M. Paulson Jr., is the Treasury secretary, having been recruited by Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff and yet another former Goldman executive.

The heads of the Canadian and Italian central banks are Goldman alumni. The World Bank president, Robert B. Zoellick, is another. Jon S. Corzine, once a co-chairman, is the governor of New Jersey. And in academia, Robert S. Kaplan, a former vice chairman, has just been picked as the interim head of Harvard University’s $35 billion endowment.

Since going public in 1999, Goldman has been the No. 1 mergers and acquisitions adviser, globally and in the United States, with two exceptions: in 2005 it came in second in the United States rankings, and in 2000 it lost the top spot globally. In both instances, Morgan Stanley took the lead, according to Dealogic...

...this bottom-line approach has turned off some Goldman veterans and clients. They see the firm’s desire to advise, finance and invest — a so-called triple play — as antithetical to Goldman’s stated No. 1 business principle of putting clients first...

...“While the integration of our investment banking operations with our merchant bank was somewhat controversial at the time, we felt these businesses were mutually reinforcing...”

...In the race for president, Goldman Sachs executives are the top contributors to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and the second highest contributor to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Blankfein has held a fund-raiser for Mrs. Clinton in his apartment and has come out publicly in her favor.

Another member of Goldman’s influential diaspora is Philip D. Murphy, a retired executive who is the chief fund-raiser for the Democratic National Committee.

All of which has made Goldman a favorite of conspiracy theorists, columnists and bloggers who see the firm as a Wall Street version of the Trilateral Commission.

One particular obsession is President Bush’s working group on the markets, an informal committee led by Mr. Paulson that includes Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve; Christopher Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and Walter Lukken, the acting chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

The group meets about once a quarter — privately, with no minutes taken — to ensure that government agencies are briefed on market conditions and issues. The group is currently examining the extent to which the packaging and distribution of mortgage loans contributed to the crisis. It also recently completed a study recommending that hedge funds not be subject to further regulation; the group’s fund committee was led by Eric Mindich, a former Goldman trader who now runs a successful hedge fund.

There is no evidence that the conduct of the group is anything but above board. But to some, the group’s existence adds more color to the view that Goldman is indeed everywhere — much as J. P. Morgan was in the early years of the 20th century.

...When asked at a conference how he hoped to take advantage of his competitors’ weakened position, he said Goldman was focused on making fewer mistakes. But he wryly observed that the firm would surely take it on the chin at some point, too.

“Everybody,” he said, “gets their turn.”


Of course, some turns spin better than others.

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