Goldman Manipulation: The Rats Respond
From Jr. Deputy Accountant;
Posted: 28 Jun 2009 09:20 PM PDT
By now you've heard of Matt Taibbi's Rolling Stone piece on rampant Goldman manipulation. Goldman certainly has.
Marching out the clowns to Reuters' Felix Salmon, GS insists that everything it does is above the board under current regulations. Well of course it is. We argue that the regulations are built with Goldman in mind, idiots. Great argument though from GS' Lucas van Praag:
Having read your piece about Matt Taibbi’s article in Rolling Stone, I wanted to set the record straight, particularly about “regulatory capture”.
Background: Under the Commodity Exchange Act, the CFTC (for agricultural futures) or exchanges (for energy/metals futures) established speculative position limits. As much as anything else, the limits are intended to prevent market imbalances that would result in failures of the ultimate settlement of the futures contracts.
The CFTC rules exempt “bona fide hedging” transactions from these spec limits. A bona fide hedging transaction was originally understood to be an actual producer/consumer who was selling or buying the underlying commodity and wanted to hedge risk of the price moving up or down. In 1991, J. Aron wanted to enter into one of its first commodity index swap transactions with a pension fund. In order to hedge our exposure on the swap, we wanted to buy futures on the commodities in the index. We applied to the CFTC for exemption from position limits on the theory that even if we weren’t buying the commodity, we had offsetting exposure (in our swap) that put us in a balanced/price neutral position. The CFTC agreed with our argument and granted exemption. By the way, each of the then Commissioners signed off, so it was hardly a secret…
The CFTC published a report in August 2008, indicating that there were few instances when entities would have exceeded spec limits, had they applied to OTC positions.
Yesterday, as you probably know, the Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on Investigations issued a report on wheat futures in which they concluded that divergence between prices for actual wheat v. wheat futures is being caused solely by index investment. The Committee’s recommendation is that hedge exemptions which support indices should be phased out.
Not quite so recently, the elimination of Glass Steagall doesn’t exactly provide a robust argument for regulatory capture. And Taibbi’s bubble case doesn’t stand up to serious scrutiny either. To give just two examples, even with the worst will in the world, the blame for creating the internet bubble cannot credibly be laid at our door, and we could hardly be described as having been a major player in the mortgage market, unlike so many of our current and former competitors.
Taibbi’s article is a compilation of just about every conspiracy theory ever dreamed up about Goldman Sachs, but what real substance is there to support the theories?
We reject the assertion that we are inflators of bubbles and profiteers in busts, and we are painfully conscious of the importance of being a force for good.
And so Goldman shrinks off, defeated, allowing JPM to reign as top rat?