Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs, SEC deal could lead to other bank settlements

Alisa Roth Jul 16, 2010
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs, SEC deal could lead to other bank settlements

Alisa Roth Jul 16, 2010
HTML EMBED:
COPY

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: Goldman was charged with not being completely open about financial instruments it sold just before the financial crisis. Marketplace’s Alisa Roth is with us live from our New York bureau. Hi Alisa.

Alisa Roth: Good morning.

Radke: So Goldman agreed to pay a half a billion dolar fine. Who gets that money? Is it the investors who lost money?

Roth: Partly, yes. About half the money will go to two European banks who lost big buying those investments. Actually one of them, Royal Bank of Scotland, says it’s contemplating further action against Goldman Sachs. Meanwhile, the rest goes to the U.S. government, so I guess ultimately to us, the taxpayers. The only thing is, when you do the math, it ends up only being about 97-cents a person. So not much of a windfall there. It’s probably worth mentioning here that the SEC isn’t upset that investors lost money — that just goes with the territory. Rather the agency argued that the losses were unfair because Goldman wasn’t entirely open about disclosing various conflicts of interest. So the game was essentially fixed.

Radke: Hmmm. Well a half a billion dollar fine, it’s not nothing, but Goldman does not have to admit any wrongdoing in the case. We’re talking about banks that make billions a year, Alisa. Break that down for us, is this a token fine?

Roth: I talked to Alistair Milne this morning. He’s a banking professor at the Cass Business School in London. He says Goldman got off easy because there really wasn’t much else the SEC could do:

Alistair Milne: Its difficult to prosecute such cases in the courts. So in the end, I think they’ve been able to face down the SEC in exchange for this fine.

Certainly the fine itself is certainly smaller than a lot of people had been predicting. You know as soon as we started hearing about a possible settlement, people were saying it could be more than a billion dollars. The other thing is if you put this into the context of those Wall Street earnings we’ve been hearing about this week, it’s really just a drop in the bucket. Goldman Sachs doesn’t report second-quarter earnings until Tuesday, but the last time it reported, it was earning that much money every two weeks.

Radke: Every two weeks. Marketplace’s Alisa Roth, thank you for that.

Roth: You’re welcome.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.