Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Didja Miss Me?

The President: "Jiminy Jumpin' Jesus, I can't believe we're gonna pay that madman! I got nukes up the ying-yang. Just let me launch one, for God's sake!"
Commander Gilmour: "Sir! Are you suggesting that we blow up the moon?"
The President: "... Would ya miss it? [looks around the table] Would you miss it?"

— Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

1.) For those of you who haven't noticed, I've been missing lately. Sorry. Been busy. Day job, you know.1

2.) I have continued to be amazed by the sheer number of visits to this site during my bloggy hibernation. Either all your RSS readers are set to auto-refresh, or a hell of a lot of you need something much better to do. Don't you have jobs? Or homes? Or at least demanding girlfriends?2

3.) I have been reliably informed that something scandalous has recently been unearthed which involves a recurring target of Your Formerly Diligent Blogosopher's ruminations. I even believe the word "fraud" has been bandied about liberally.

Given that a) I have been occupied elsewhere, and b) I really couldn't give a flying fuck in a rolling donut whether the Great Vampire Squid of West Street (new digs, natch) vanishes into the singularity or not, I frankly have not paid much attention to the scandal beyond a cursory perusal of the headlines and a couple of blog posts. Honestly, life is just too short.3

However, in the spirit of duty which compels Your Humble Servant to satisfy every bloggy whim my Peremptory Audience demands of me (and also because Natasha has temporarily left the hotel room to get more caviar and ice cubes), I will make the following brief observations:

i.) The parties which Goldman supposedly defrauded were large and supposedly sophisticated financial institutions. The managers of these institutions were or should have been paid quite large sums of money to, among other things, protect their stakeholders from fraud, unethical sales practices, and general office supply stealing. I have no sympathy whatsoever for the knuckleheads at ACA or IKB. And, frankly, neither should you.

B.) Whether the alleged fraud rises to the level of an actionable civil claim or simply represents unethical behavior is a question for a court of law. I am not qualified to judge, but the criteria which ultimately determine the nature of Goldman's alleged offense will be legalistic ones, akin to judging exactly how many mortgage CDO investors' brains can be fitted onto the head of a pin. While the answer may be definitive, it will not be particularly revealing to the vast majority of us who live outside the cloistered halls of Americus Litigalis.

4.) I must agree with Felix Salmon and others, who claim that the real damage to Goldman Sachs has already been done, with its formerly venerated name being dragged publicly through the mud with an accusation of fraud. While this may have little effect on the majority of Goldman's business on the sales and trading side of the house—where counterparties are generally too smart to raise a stink about the 800 pound gorilla of the global financial markets (and often too unprincipled themselves to care)—4 it should and will have an effect on Goldman's extensive investment banking business with governments, corporations, and other entities.

The Squid has been living for years off the simple fact that, like the fabled IBM of yore, no-one ever got fired (or sued) for picking Goldman Sachs. That calculus has been changed, and I and every one of my red-blooded peers in the industry who is not currently drawing a paycheck signed by David Viniar are making damn sure that CEOs, CFOs, government officials, and Boards of Directors know it. For those of you who were wondering, this is the real reason why Goldman's market capitalization has taken the vapors to the tune of more than ten billion dollars in response to an action likely to cost it no more than a tiny fraction of that amount: its reputation premium is quietly and rapidly evaporating. There is no shortage of competent investment banks and adequate investment bankers available to conduct the financing and M&A business of the global corporate and government economy. No longer can Goldman rest assured that it will win mandates simply because it is Goldman Sachs. In fact, it may lose many for that very reason.

The playing field has been leveled to a material degree. I and others like me could not be more pleased.

* * *

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must get back to disparaging Lloyd Blankfein's appalling taste in neckties to his former clientele. It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.


1 This condition is likely to persist for the indefinite future. The good news is that this means things are looking up for M&A deal lawyers, Ukranian hookers, and purveyors of overpriced French champagne. The bad news is that, well, you won't get to read about these things quite so much as before. I suspect most of you will manage.
2 It is my firm belief that more than 97% of my readership consists of unmarried, overworked males, a figure which matches the composition of my chosen field of employ. To the extent I am wrong, and any of you reading this now are female, I will of course demand proof. An 8" by 10" glossy photo of you in lingerie or a thong bikini, along with a detailed description of any identifying birthmarks, verbal tics, and favorite fetishes, should be mailed to the address listed on this site. Upon receipt, my trusted amanuensis Igor will contact you with further instructions.
3 If you agree with this sentiment, stop reading now. Go back to snorting coke or washing your dog or walking your gerbil, or whatever it is you do in your spare time. I will join you shortly.
4 Although just wait and see what happens if enough of them sense that Goldman is mortally wounded. They'll gang up and rip it to shreds without a second thought, just like they did to Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and almost did to Morgan Stanley. Live by the sword, die by the sword, baby. Booyah!

© 2010 The Epicurean Dealmaker. All rights reserved.