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商业 - 金融

高盛和其他大银行的麻烦还没完

Eleanor Bloxham 2012年08月14日

缺乏对金融危机期间行为的问责,导致公众对政府和银行的信任出现裂痕,如今这道裂痕已越变越大,或许永远都无法修复。

    近来高盛(Goldman Sachs)似乎运气不错,或者至少看起来是这样。

    美国证券交易委员会(SEC)已经停止了对高盛出售次级抵押贷款相关披露情况的调查。美国司法部(DOJ)也已放弃了对高盛的一项刑事调查;该调查是源于一份635页的国会报告,报告描述了高盛如何通过与客户反向押注而获利,看上去该行似乎误导了客户。

    高盛自身的麻烦似乎已经暂告一个段落,与此同时,曼哈顿检察官们正在起诉一位前高盛雇员,指控他在离开高盛前复制了公司程序。《纽约时报》(New York Times)报道称,辩方质疑这项起诉可能违反了美国宪法第五修正案,因为在这位前雇员的联邦判决被推翻前,他已经为此服刑。

    高盛发言人戴维•威尔斯拒绝就SEC决定停止调查一事接受媒体采访,但对于美国司法部取消刑事调查的决定,据报道,他告诉记者们:“我们很高兴这件事情已经成为过去了。”

    摩根大通(J.P. Morgan)、巴克莱(Barclays)和渣打(Standard Chartered)等大银行最近的日子都不好过,跟它们不同,过去几个月高盛差不多还算过得去。但现在高盛再次站到了台前,成为焦点——虽然高盛发言人声称这事已经过去了,但不清楚高盛能否完完全全把这些问题抛到身后。

    高盛的声誉依然不佳。里昂证券(CLSA)日前发布了一份分析师报告,报告给予高盛“强于大盘”评级的迈克•梅奥和麦特•费舍尔写道,虽然没有刑事指控,“我们依然认为高盛CEO在国会质询中表现相当糟糕。”两位分析师还不无讽刺地写道,他们“信赖高盛管理团队……就像信赖其他大银行的管理团队一样”。

    他们说的或许没错,极短期内这会让高盛“相对不那么处于政府/监管部门的焦点视线内”。但这段时期会非常短暂,因为多项调查停止可能激发公众提出更多要求。

    缺乏对金融危机期间行为的问责,导致公众对政府和银行的信任出现裂痕,如今这道裂痕已越变越大,或许永远都无法修复。这一点在眼下尤其令人关注:如果希望在11月份美国大选前对与金融危机相关的行为进行问责,现在可能是最后的希望了。

    也许高盛不用为金融体系失去公众的信赖承担全部责任,但相关后果可能会对整个金融体系持续产生影响。短期来看,高盛和其他大银行或许会更大胆妄为——这意味着我们将看到更多类似的行为。长期来看,我们可能看到常识的回归,但代价如何呢?

    假如这些公司像几年前一样陷入严重危机,显然要承担真正后果的不仅是这些公司,还有整个金融体系。路透社(Reuters)近日的一篇报道称,应该要求银行不光提交解决方案,同时还要提供复苏计划。报道包括一个链接,连接到3月份摩根大通在哈佛法学院(Harvard Law School)的一项闭门演示。围绕公平披露规则(Regulation Fair Disclosure,禁止公司有选择地向某些群体、而不向另一些群体披露材料信息)担忧,摩根大通向哈佛听众展示的细节在某些方面比7月份摩根大通解决方案中提供的信息还要更广泛。

    公开的摩根大通文件称,公司提供透明的财务信息,“让分析师能评估公司的财务状况”。但正如日前彼得•伊维斯在《纽约时报》(New York Times)上指出,该行并没有披露一项所有人都希望知道的数据:也就是“已给该行造成巨大经济和声誉损失的衍生品头寸总规模”。

    公开文件还声称,任何头寸解除只会“带来最小的系统扰动,不会给纳税人造成任何损失。”但摩根大通的哈佛演示列出了在某种情形下,可能获得美国联邦存款保险公司(FDIC)2,000亿美元的流动性注入。如果摩根大通无法还上这几千亿美元,其他银行就得买单。演示称,“如果FDIC拿不到还款,它将评估整个行业来弥补损失。”

    先锋集团(the Vanguard Group)创始人、《资本主义灵魂之战》(The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism)一书的作者杰克•伯格尔最近告诉我,我们尚未输掉资本主义的灵魂之战,但整个体系需要大修。需要更多的业界人士站起来,呼吁问责同仁,呼吁恢复适当的政企关系,开启修复的道路。

    本文作者埃莉诺•布洛克斯汉姆是董事会咨询机构价值联盟和企业管理管理联盟(The Value Alliance and Corporate Governance Alliance)的CEO,公司网址http://thevaluealliance.com。

    译者:早稻米

    Goldman Sachs has come into a run of luck -- or so it seems.

    The SEC has dropped its investigation into the bank's disclosures related to the sale of subprime mortgages. And the DOJ has dropped its criminal probe into allegations stemming from a 635-page Congressional report that described how Goldman profited by betting against clients and appeared to have misled customers.

    And while Goldman (GS) itself appears to be off the hook, Manhattan prosecutors are going after one of its former employees, who allegedly copied Goldman programs before leaving the firm. The defense has raised concerns that this prosecution may be violating the fifth amendment of the constitution since the former employee had already served time for the matter before his federal conviction was overturned, the New York Times reported.

    David Wells, a Goldman spokesperson, declined to comment to news outlets on the SEC decision to drop its investigation, but regarding the DOJ decision to drop the criminal investigation, he reportedly told reporters, "We are pleased that this matter is behind us."

    While the heat has been on banks like J.P. Morgan (JPM), Barclays (BCS), and Standard Chartered, Goldman has gotten a bit of a pass for the past few months. But here it is, front and center once more -- and despite its spokesman's statement, it is not clear that Goldman will ever be able, in full measure, to put these matters behind it.

    Goldman's reputation continues to receive low marks. In an analyst report published by CLSA today, Mike Mayo and Matt Fischer -- who rate the bank an outperform -- write that although there was no criminal charge, "we still believe that the CEO performed terribly during the Congressional hearings." Damning with faint praise, they say they "trust this management team …about as much as any large bank."

    They may be right that in the very short term, this puts Goldman "relatively less in the political/regulatory cross-hairs." But that is a very short-term horizon because the convergence of dropped investigations has the potential to awaken more public demands.

    The lack of accountability during the financial crisis, which was a tear in the faith in governmental and banking institutions, is turning into a giant rip that may never be repaired. This is causing particular concern now since this may be the last hope for financial crisis-related accountability before November's elections.

    While Goldman may not pay the full brunt of the price for the lost trust in the financial system, the outcomes are likely to continue to ripple across the system. In the short run, Goldman and other big banks may be emboldened -- which means we will continue to see more of the same. In the long run, we may see a restoration of common sense, but at what cost?

    In the event these firms enter a tailspin, as they did a few short years ago, it is clear there is potential for real consequences, not just to the firms themselves but for the system as a whole. A Reuters report late yesterday discussed requirements that banks submit not only resolution but also recovery plans. The report included a link to a closed-door presentation that J.P. Morgan made at Harvard Law School in March. Raising the specter of Reg FD (Regulation Fair Disclosure), which prohibits companies from disclosing material information to some groups instead of others, the details presented to the Harvard attendees were in some respect more extensive than those provided to the public in July on J.P. Morgan's resolution plans.

    Public J.P. Morgan documents say that the firm provides transparent financial information for "analysts to assess the Firm's financial position." But as Peter Eavis at the New York Times pointed out yesterday, the bank isn't disclosing a number everyone would like to know: the "overall size of the derivatives bets that have led to large losses and much reputational damage for the bank."

    The public documents also state that any wind-down would occur with "minimum systemic disruption and without losses to taxpayers." But J.P. Morgan's Harvard presentation outlines the potential for a $200 billion liquidity infusion from the FDIC in such a scenario. And if J.P. Morgan could not pay the billions back, other banks would have to. "If the FDIC is not repaid it will assess the industry to cover any losses," the presentation states.

    Jack Bogle recently told me that the battle for the soul of capitalism was not yet lost but that the system was in need of great repair. It will take a larger groundswell of business people standing up to demand that their fellows be held accountable and that the proper relationship between government and big business be restored to set us on that path.

    Eleanor Bloxham is CEO of The Value Alliance and Corporate Governance Alliance (http://thevaluealliance.com), a board advisory firm.

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