GS

By George Chen
The opinions expressed are the author’s own.

Today is April Fools’ Day, a rare opportunity to make fun of friends and colleagues with pranks and practical jokes. Ever ahead of the game, Goldman Sachs produced an amusing mistake yesterday making it look more than a little foolish, as many investors and rival bankers may attest.

The bank’s Asia structured products unit said yesterday that trading in four index warrants it issued in relation to the Nikkei 225 was abruptly suspended in Hong Kong because of errors in supplemental listing documents. The formula of “cash settlement amount per board lot” for the warrants was misstated, Goldman Sachs Structured Products (Asia) Ltd said in a filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange. Click here to read the Goldman Sachs statement (PDF).

Before being suspended, the warrants surged by between 130 and 1,077 percent on Thursday morning, which local media reported could cost the bank millions of dollars.

Well, I understand it’s still a small figure to a bank like Goldman Sachs, although the story was certainly the most widely talked about matter in the equities world yesterday. Traders said this was a rare mistake that once again raised concern about the understanding of banks in relation to sophisticated financial products.

I am a bit worried about the fate of the Goldman Sachs bankers responsible for those Nikkei warrant errors. Should they be fired? Perhaps. It’s indeed embarrassing for Goldman Sachs and the timing is perfect — a day before the Fools’ Day — although this, sadly, was not a joke.