An Investment Bank, Too Good to be True?

By MORT MALKIN
Posted 1/2/20

Goldman Sachs announced that it will henceforth decline to finance Arctic oil drilling in the National Wildlife Preserve. [Pretty weak way to say “We won’t drill for oil in the …

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An Investment Bank, Too Good to be True?

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Goldman Sachs announced that it will henceforth decline to finance Arctic oil drilling in the National Wildlife Preserve. [Pretty weak way to say “We won’t drill for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Preserve!”] They do get a little credit for the part of the announcement regarding mountain-top removal mining, where they will also decline that opportunity.

Before you applaud too loudly — Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, and UniCredit were way ahead of Goldman Sachs in the investment responsibility line. As well, the (infamous) US investment house may still finance fracking and oil tar sands operations elsewhere. For them, fossil fuels are still alive.

You may remember Goldman Sachs from the 2007-2008 financial crisis which was precipitated by sub-prime mortgage financing and associated monkey business. That and the credit default swaps and exotic derivatives trading.

Lloyd Blankfein was the CEO of Goldman Sachs then. He took phone calls from and gave advice to the Secretary of the Treasury (and President?).  Lloyd B said he was just a banker doing God’s work.

If you think that the shenanagins of the sub-prime mortgages are over and Wall Street has turned over an ethical leaf, better think again. They are just more sophisticated and less transparent about it. Derivatives are still flying high. There are hedge funds and off-shore accounts. Now, with advanced computer technology and artificial intelligence, there is (very) high-frequency computer trading. There are still swaps, knock-out options, vulture options, and even plain vanilla options. The exchange of puts and calls is still on the basis of price agreement between buyer and seller which the SEC can’t keep records of, nor can the IRS can tax directly. 

It took all those years for the Securities and Exchange Commission to file a successful suit in federal court against Goldman Sachs and collect damages to the tune of $5 billion plus an admission that it defrauded its own investors in the process.

The players on Wall Street meanwhile are still playing games (but not with their own money). Even progressive Congress-people, both Democrats and Republicans, won’t propose that a tax be assessed on the exchange of money in these transactions. Yet, a tiniest Financial Transaction Tax [call it a Fee] would add up to enough money to pay for a) Medicare for All Without Deductibles and b) Totally Free CollegeBooks and All.

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