Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) is suspected of aiding in the fall of Bear Stearns, and yet, one-time dot-com superstar Frank Quattrone says that Wall Street can be trusted.
"I think the industry should petition to remove the Spitzer initiative," Quattrone reportedly told attendees of a conference for start-ups held this week at Stanford University. "It hurts the competitiveness of our country to deny companies access to research analysts."
Access to research analysts? Sigh.
Quattrone is referring to a ruling that prohibits Wall Street's analysts from getting too cozy with bankers. The thinking, if I'm reading Quattrone correctly, is that investment banks need to be able to offer semi-legit research to IPO clients so as to grease the market for soon-to-be offered shares.
OK, so Quattrone wouldn't call the practice "semi-legit." I would because, well, we know that it usually is. Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS ) , Deutsche Bank (NYSE: DB ) , JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , Lehman Brothers (NYSE: LEH ) , and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) are among those to have settled conflict-of-interest charges for $1.4 billion in 2002.
That's what makes this (ahem) sell-side analyst pledge so darn funny. Humor works best when it's doused in truth. We're supposed to believe that, now that analysts have been in the wilderness for a few years, it's OK to invite them back to Wall and Broad's gilded halls with a backslap and a whiskey sour?
What really burns me about Quattrone's argument is that he's relying on half-truths to make his point. The U.S. IPO market was bone-dry in the second quarter; not one venture-backed firm came public during that time, exasperating the venture capital crowd from whose backyard Quattrone was speaking.
Never mind the rotten economy or the impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements for public firms; the death of the IPO is Eliot Spitzer's fault.
Then again, maybe Quattrone's right. He is, after all, an insider who rejoined the world of start-up finance by opening his own firm in March. He'd never lean on moral outrage just to win new business. Wall Street can be trusted, remember?
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