Charges of fraud brought against banking titan Goldman Sachs by the Securities and Exchange Commission rocked financial markets Friday, but experts say the allegations are merely the first of many to come, Reuters reported.
After the SEC went public with the allegations, the Dow Jones dropped 125 points and Goldman Sachs stocks dropped 13 percent Ã¢â‚¬â€ the largest one-day drop in company history.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” said James Hackney, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law. “There are a lot of folks out there in different deals who played similar roles, and once it starts building steam, plaintiffs’ lawyers will figure out this is where the money is and there should be a lot of action.”
Reuters Global editor at large Chrystia Freeland said the significance of the charges is “huge.”
Goldman Sachs’ members like to think of themselves as “the smartest, the richest,” but Freeland said they also like to think of themselves as the “most virtuous.”
“Someone once said, ‘I don’t want to be just another rich guy in New York,’” she recalled. “They want o be part of civil service, part of government, doing good, giving back.”
The charges against Goldman relate to a complex investment tied to the performance of pools of risky mortgages. In a complaint filed Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission alleged that Goldman marketed the package to investors without disclosing a major conflict of interest: The pools were picked by another client, a prominent hedge fund that was betting the housing bubble would burst.
Goldman said the charges are “unfounded in law and fact,” the Associated Press reported. In a written response to the charges, the bank said it had provided “extensive disclosure” to investors and that the largest investor had selected the portfolio – not the hedge fund client. Goldman said it lost $90 million on the deal, but the fact that Goldman lost money has no impact on the fraud charges.
Goldman Sachs was not the only bank to pursue the practices that brought on the SEC charges. It wasn’t uncommon in 2006 and 2007. At the tail end of the real estate bubble, smart investors searched for bigger and better ways to profit from the approaching disaster of using derivatives.
The SEC’s charges against Goldman Sachs are already stirring up investors who lost big, according to plaintiffs lawyer Jake Zamansky.
“I’ve been contacted by Goldman customers to bring lawsuits to recover their losses,” Zamansky said.
For President Obama’s push to reform Wall Street financial practices, the allegations couldn’t have come at a better time. As the Los Angeles Times put it:
The accusations against the iconic Wall Street institution offer a chance to revitalize a simple political narrative that he has all but lost in recent months: that he and his party are protecting ordinary Americans victimized by the economic meltdown.
All 41 Senate Republicans declared their unanimous opposition to financial reform in a Friday letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid.
But Reuters editor Freeland said Republicans are going to have a much tougher time convincing Americans that immediate financial reform isn’t necessary after the SEC’s charges.
“I think now that there has been a lot of momentum behind the financial reform bill, and I think that that momentum is only going to increase,” Freeland said. “The charges on Friday will give the Democrats who wanted a tougher bill a lot more energy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.