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The Goldman Casino

The Goldman Casino
Do investment banks do 
anything that helps America anymore?

Man leaning on gaming table throwing dice

By Eliot Spitzer, in Slate 

In ordinary times, the SEC’s fraud case against Goldman Sachs would have been settled before it was even filed. There would have been a consent decree in which Goldman neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing, paid a fine, and agreed to make more fulsome disclosures in the future. But these are not ordinary times, and the SEC’s very public announcement that it’s charging Goldman with misrepresentation and fraud in its marketing of a subprime debt product has become one of the biggest stories in the entire Wall Street scandal.

The filing of the Goldman case has crystallized the public support for more vigorous regulation of Wall Street. The Republican effort to oppose financial regulatory reform is now fading into an effort to forge a compromise that will give them some sort of defensible exit strategy. Under any bill that is likely to pass, derivatives trading will become reasonably transparent; a consumer protection agency will be created with a significant degree of independence; some chairs will be rearranged on the organizational deck of the regulatory ship of state; capital requirements and leverage ratios will be adjusted in ways that will be designed to reduce overall risk; and a systemic risk overseer will be created. This is all good stuff, but none of it is really adequate to address the "too big to fail" structure of the financial industry in a fundamental way. And it won’t repair the underlying asymmetry of our having "socialized risk" and "privatized gain" for those entities that have an explicit federal guarantee behind them.

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