Opinion

The Great Debate

Goldman’s TARP out: give up ALL state aid

goldman-crop – Jonathan Ford is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own –

Goldman Sachs wants to do its duty by the American people and give them their TARP money back. Some spoilsports have urged the government simply to say no because allowing the investment bank to repay the cash would make other banks look bad.

But this seems rather un-American. Why shouldn’t taxpayers get their money back if Goldman really doesn’t need it? The point to insist upon is that they get all of it back — and on commercial terms.

To be clear, that means not just the $10 billion of TARP-related preference shares the government subscribed for last autumn, but also the rest of the Federal assistance Goldman has received.

That includes the $29 billion of FDIC backed bonds that Goldman has issued at low coupons, without which — as Jon Unia observes in a snappy letter to the Financial Times on April 22 — it might have posted a first-quarter loss rather than a profit. Goldman has, as it points out, issued bonds without a guarantee since last autumn, so it’s not impossible. The full $29 billion would need to be refinanced on commercial terms. After all, either you’re a private sector player or you’re not.

Beware Goldman’s “dutiful” TARP repayment

(Republished to clarify time period of data in fifth paragraph)

Trading specialists work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange trading shares of Goldman Sachs, in New York, April 14, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East Patriotism, as Dr Johnson once observed, is the last refuge of a scoundrel. So when you hear words like “duty” drip from the lips of a senior executive at Goldman Sachs, you instinctively count the spoons.

You’d be right to do so too. Chief financial officer David Viniar’s observation that Goldman has a duty to repay the money it received last autumn from the U.S. government as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program may be marginally less cynical than the apercu flung out recently by his boss, Lloyd Blankfein, that investment bankers should be paid less and shouldn’t be rewarded for failure.

But not much less.

And my, do Blankfein’s comments seem cynical in light of the bank’s first quarter results. After all, Goldman accrued 50 percent of its quarterly revenues (yes, that’s revenues) against payments it plans to make to its employees. That is broadly the same proportion that it paid out to them throughout the boom. No question, then, that Goldman’s bankers should do without to pay back the TARP money. With breathtaking cheek, Goldman has also used taxpayers’ cash to bail out Jon Winkelried, one of its wealthiest and most senior executives, after he lost too much money in its own hedge funds. And as for clawing back past rewards that turned out to be excessive — well what about that $70 million you got in 2007, Blankfein?

Goldman may repay government funds but not ease U.S. grip

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Goldman Sachs Group Inc may succeed in its bid to pay back U.S. taxpayer money with the help of a $5 billion common share sale, but it may still not get the freedom it wants from intense public scrutiny.

Goldman, which posted a better-than-expected first-quarter profit and announced the public offering on Monday, has navigated the global financial crisis better than many of its rivals.

Its share price has more than doubled since hitting a record low in November, and is up more than 50 percent this year.

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