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Opinion

The world against Goldman Sachs

Oh the irony. As Euromoney left the executive offices of one of Goldman’s main hubs this week, the image projected on the plasma screen in the elevator could not have been starker. “The world against Goldman Sachs” was the screaming headline of one financial television news channel.

Abacus 2007-ACI, the deal at the centre of the case brought by the SEC against Goldman, could become as synonymous with the financial crisis as sub-prime, Lehman Brothers and Repo 105.

The case put against Goldman Sachs – still the world’s best-performing investment bank, as the $3.46 billion of profits generated in the first quarter of 2010 demonstrate – looks damning on paper.

Goldman makes a huge play of putting clients first. Most of its detractors counter that it puts the earnings of its business before anything else. The least the Abacus deal suggests is that Goldman ranks some clients before others.

It comes on the back of many other unsubstantiated but lingering jibes against the firm: that it has too many connections to government; that it got special treatment when AIG collapsed; and that it epitomizes the excesses of the global financial industry.

Goldman defends the charges against it, saying they "are not founded in law or fact". That may well be the case, and lawyers are going to make a fortune arguing the minutiae of the legalities.

For example: did hedge fund Paulson & Co choose the residential mortgage securities held within Abacus, or was it independent firm ACA Management that had the final say? What if Paulson gave a list of securities that it wanted in the deal, and Abacus chose some of them but no securities outside the list? That’s one for the legal experts to pore over.

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