Monday, April 19, 2010

Goldman Sachs' Power on Display; Blankfien Should Be Jailed

Make no doubt about it. The only reason stocks gained today was because the traders at Goldman Sachs were boosting prices, especially for their own stock and others in the banking sector.

One must really have to stretch credulity to its most outer limits to believe that actual investors - real people playing with their own money - would have so much as touched financial shares with as many ten-foot poles as one could offer them.

Today's argument was that the SEC decision to bring fraud charges against Goldman Sachs came down to a 3-2 vote, thus, the charges cannot be well-founded. While that may be so, and well and good, the argument is as superfluous as what little hair remains on Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein's (left) head. There's something there, surely, but it has no meaning.

Looking at the larger scheme, suppose Goldman Sachs is completely innocent, all the way down the line. They did nothing wrong throughout the period from 2003-2007, in which trillions of dollars were packaged, sold and then vaporized. Suppose that is true.

If that's the case, then why would anyone do business with the most incompetent firm on the planet? They must not have known that housing values should not rise by 15% a year, that loans for mortgages should be closely scrutinized and offered only to potential borrowers with the highest credit standards and ability to pay.

Truly, if the chiefs at the Goldman Sachs roundtable didn't see anything wrong with the deals they were facilitating, packaging and selling, then they must be the greatest buffoons on the planet.

The argument simply doesn't work, unless, of course, you are dealing with what actually may be the greatest gathering of idiots in the history of the world, the American public, who still might buy their story, though even that is doubtful.

Politics comes into play in the SEC, just as in any organization. The two dissenters on the decision to charge the firm with fraud might have been concerned over their futures. Goldman Sachs is an incredibly powerful organization, with tentacles throughout the government and society. Taking them on in the courts is a task not for the meek. The regulators who finally, after nearly two years of dawdling, mustered enough courage to do what is right, will likely become pariahs on Wall Street, as unwelcome as a sell rating by any analyst.

Thus, Goldman's political muscle must be weighed in this light, as well as in any trading while the matter is being litigated. Just as the control freaks at Goldman Sachs made sure today would be a shining moment for capitalism, they will be equally resolute in promoting a massive sell-off should the tide turn against them.

It's a simple argument once one boils out all of the politics and media spin: Goldman Sachs either committed fraud on a grand scale or they are completely incompetent and unfit to handle even the simplest financial transactions.

So it is that as of today, all trading in equities and commodities - Goldman's playgrounds - should be eyed with the highest degree of skepticism possible. The firm controls so much of the markets, to such an extraordinary degree, that they may not only be too big to fail, but too big to even be a fair, honest and practical participant.

Dow 11,092.05, +73.39 (0.67%)
NASDAQ 2,480.11, -1.15 (0.05%)
S&P 500 1,197.52, +5.39 (0.45%)
NYSE Composite 7,596.56, +11.94 (0.16%)

Offering credence to the "control" argument are the indices, today hopelessly out of kilter. While the Dow was up sharply, the NASDAQ was down, and the NYSE Composite barely registering a gain. Further, DECLINING ISSUES LED ADVANCERS, 3774-2621. New highs ebbed lower, to 259, while there were only 48 new lows. Volume was magnificent, especially on the NYSE, because it took a lot of trading to boost specific stocks (ones that were, in reality, being sold off by spooked investors).

NYSE Volume 7,341,836,000
NASDAQ Volume 2,163,046,500

This New York Times article about the loyal Goldman Sachs' employees rallying around their beleaguered company and their head honcho, Mr. Blankfein, speaks not only of the company's incredibly adroit reach into the media, but also of the levels of deceit they will employ to save themselves.

The game is up at Goldman, whether they like to admit it or not. Blankfein, if he pushes back hard enough, may find himself looking out at the world from behind bars, which is probably where he belongs, as do many of his cadre of overstuffed, self-important, greed merchants.

Oil prices fell for a third straight day, probably because the Goldman traders were too busy propping up the stock market. Oil slipped another $1.79, to $81.45. Gold fell $1.10, to $1,135.20. Silver gained 6 cents, to $17.72.

Goldman Sachs is still in control, for now, but if there is any justice remaining in what little is left of our democracy, they won't be for long. We can only hope that they don't blow up the economy for good as their final tribute to greed.

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