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According to the Collins English Dictionary 10th Edition fraud can be defined as: "deceit, trickery, sharp practice, or breach of confidence, perpetrated for profit or to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage".[1] In the broadest sense, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and also a civil law violation. Defrauding people or entities of money or valuables is a common purpose of fraud, but there have also been fraudulent "discoveries", e.g. in science, to gain prestige rather than immediate monetary gain
*As defined in Wikipedia

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Goldman Sachs Links and News - January 6, 2010

Today's news and posts about GS are few. There is still much written about their issue in the U.K. concerning a possible move out of the country. The one story worthy of posting here is the one from the Huffington Post where Bill George, a Harvard Professor and GS Board Member compares GS employees to Pro Athletes and Movie Stars. The Link and the video within the Huffpost piece appears below.

Since it is such a slow newsday I felt I could take this space to elaborate on this story and on Bill George.

In all fairness, Mr. George does agree that perhaps both athletes and movie stars are somewhat overpaid - and they are. But at least athletes and movie stars toil and labor for their spoils, often have limited careers and provide a benefit to society. Economically both actors and athletes create income for many people. Just look at the credits at the end of any movie or look at the number of people it takes to support a team in order to bring it to game day. Not to mention the ancillary jobs from sales and production of sports paraphenalia.

In addition both movie stars and athletes provide entertainment - a diversion so greatly needed especially in today's economy where we all need to escape into fantasy for just a few hours so that we can escape from reality.

In contrast, Goldman Sachs employees produce nothing for society, provide no escape from our current reality that they have admittedly created. They do not sweat, toil or expend any physical energy, in fact, their trading is done with the push of a button on a keyboard like the one I am typing on now. (just a minute, I have to take a break to catch my breath for a moment)

Ok, I'm back. I just got a little tired typing all of these words.

Seriously though, even those overpaid athletes and actors don't make the kind of money that is tossed around Wall Street. Wall Street numbers are in the hundreds of billions while athletes and actors are in the hundreds of millions.

Goldman Sachs doesn't cater to the general public in fact doesn't do business with the general public even though they are a commercial bank (another joke). Millions of people worldwide enjoy the work of movie actors and athletes.

Another big difference as well is the fact that only a hand full of athletes and actors make the big money and the majority of them do not. Not so at GS, they have hundreds and hundreds of employees that do except for clerical and low level administrative workers - they are still just workers.

A point I have always made and often written about is that our society - no our government - has things a little backwards. They (the politicians) have enriched themselves and allowed the abuses and excesses of Wall Street so that those folks could enrich themselves beyond the comprehension of even the politicians who helped deregulate or turned a blind eye. These same politicians don't see that higher salaries and incomes should be made possible for teachers, police officers, firefighters and emergency medical service providers.

A highly paid teacher in our public schools would create - using the same philosophy Mr. George and Mr. Blankfein use - a more knowledgeable and capable employee who in turn would teach our children at the highest levels of education anywhere in the world. These teachers in turn would produce other teachers, scientists, doctors and engineers who in turn would put our economy back on track productively for centuries to come.

Instead, the work of these highly paid executives and managers at Goldman Sachs, has caused catastrophic economic hardships on almost every municipality and school system on our country. So much so that teachers, police and firefighters have to be reduced in numbers instead of increased as they are so desperately needed. In addition, the creative investment products (gambling vehicles) along with the fraudulent ratings they solicited have wiped out many of the retirement plans for our service workers and teachers around the country.

Movies and sports don't break a country's economic back as the efforts of these highly paid GS execs have so Mr. George, how do you justify this at all? Perhaps because you are also highly paid as a Board Member of Goldman Sachs higher paid probably there then at your position at Harvard University.

Going to a movie or a sporting event doesn't force us into foreclosure or unemployment. The movie and sports industries don't ask the government for billions and trillions of dollars of the people's money to continue to pay those salaries. We have never bailed out a movie studio or sports team.

To be fair, Mr. George does make some comments at the end of the video that are right. Comments such as Wall Street and big business is recovering but small business is not. He also goes on to say that 70 percent of all jobs are created by small business yet there is no financing available for them. Here again, the government could have provided the bailout funds for small business instead of the "too big to fail". I guess small business is considered "too small to bail". Had TARP funds been provided to small business and to start up business we might very well be on the road to economic recovery but instead ... well, you know where we are.

On last note on Mr. George's comments. He indicated that firms like CountryWide and New Centruy Mortgage went too far overboard in their business practices but were it not for Goldman Sachs - their derivatives and credit default swaps - the market for mortgage paper would have been greatly reduced and companies like the two mentioned above could not have created the excesses. Also note that Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan/Chase and Citi also would have been severely limited in the number of mortgages they created were it not for the excess, fraud and manipulation of Wall Street led by GS. The same holds true for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Goldman Sachs and their high paid employees, Mr. George, are not in the least bit comparable to those highly overpaid actors and athletes. I, at least, enjoy watching them on the field or on the big screen. The GS execs hide out in their taxpayer supported new ivory tower and are never seen by the public.

Here is the link to the HuffPost article.

Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.Image via Wikipedia
Bill George, Goldman Sachs Board Member, Compares Bankers To Pro Athletes ...
Huffington Post (blog)

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Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

It's not about being over/under's about being paid at all..they failed....they were bailed out and then they try to whitewash their nefarious activities by having the whole country think they are somehow head and shoulders intellectually superior to us...not so....what they are good at is exploiting every relationship they have managed to secure through the revolving door to government and affiliated agencies in the US and throughout the world. Everyone in sports play by the same rules...players don't get performance bonuses on their relationship to a referee or ump that boosts their stats...these guys do!
"It was actually more of a front door bailout. Pay attention all - Goldman would be no more if the government didn't back that payment! This is the counterparty risk that I was crowing about when I told everybody that Bear Stearns was going to go bust three months before they went bust - Is this the Breaking of the Bear?. There is still a multitude of daisy chain counterparty risk out there. JP Morgan, et. al. anyone??? An Independent Look into JP Morgan.


Mr. George wrote this article on pay for performance in 2007. He states,
"The real problem is paying enormous sums to CEOs who fail to perform. Our system of capitalism is based on taking risks and being rewarded for success, not on guaranteeing huge payouts to CEOs who destroy shareholder value. "

Without the subsidies and bailouts and blatant capture of the regulators is it fair to say they have performed?..of course not...they would have busted at worst and at a minimum still be restructuring to adapt to their new economic in essence the comparisons are moot unless you have income data on what professional thiefs earn...then I think you could do a comparison.

Anonymous said...

About 11 minutes into video Max asks a great question:

Anonymous said...

More performance???...2 set of rules...2 set of outcomes

What's being alleged here is that they have effectively pilfered the public Treasury and then paid that out as bonuses, rather than doing with it as Treasury intended and their shareholders were entitled to, which is to use the capital to rebuild the firm's foundation and strengthen it against future potential losses.

Goldman Under Fire (Again): Ponzi Bonuses?

Are we seeing once again the same game being played that WaMu played in the spring of 2007 - and which started me writing Tickers?

In his lawsuit (PDF), Brown states that Goldman Sachs gave out $4.82 billion in bonuses in 2008, despite earnings of only $2.32 billion that year. The lawsuit alleges that the company spent 259 percent of its income in the first quarter of 2009 on compensation.

Uh, that's kinda interesting. It is somewhat like WaMu, no?

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