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SEC v. Goldman Sachs: Who won?

Stock prices whiz by on a ticker near the Goldman Sachs booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York.

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Tess Vigeland: The Securities and Exchange Commission accused Goldman Sachs back in April of selling mortgage-backed securities to clients and not disclosing that those securities were designed by a firm that wanted them to fail. This was supposedly the case that would signal new toughness on the part of government regulators. But for Goldman, half a billion dollars is lunch money.

Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson has more from New York.


Jeremy Hobson: If the stock price of Goldman Sachs is any guide, then the investment bank definitely came out on top. Despite today's sell-off on Wall Street, Goldman shares are up.

Securities lawyer Bill Singer doesn't label Goldman a winner, but he doesn't bestow that title on the SEC either.

Bill Singer: The SEC got the largest settlement in the history of that regulator, which was a half a billion dollars, but that has to be viewed against the size of Goldman Sachs.

It's a company that handed out $16 billion in bonuses last year. All Goldman had to admit to in the settlement was that it made "a mistake." No admission of fraud.

Elizabeth Nowicki: Admitting to a mistake is still admitting to something.

Elizabeth Nowicki is a former SEC. attorney who teaches corporate law at Tulane.

Nowicki: If a case is truly weak, a case being contemplated by the SEC., there's not going to be any sort of admission by the settling party.

And Fordham University securities law professor Steve Thel calls the settlement a "great deal" for the SEC

Steve Thel: Anybody who thinks the SEC didn't get very much has a pretty low opinion of $500 million. Now the SEC didn't destroy the firm, and the SEC didn't force a departure of the chief executive, but that's not the SEC's job.

And the settlement isn't necessarily the last word on the matter. There is still the possibility of criminal charges. And some on Wall Street suspect management changes ahead, as Goldman tries to repair its reputation.

In New York, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

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