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It's easy to hate Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) . It has connections. It has cash. It has influence. It knows what it's doing. And it uses all of these advantages to pay each of its employees, on average, far more than half a million dollars a year. That we keep a suspicious eye on Goldman is not only expected, but warranted.
But if there's ever been a sign that public hatred has gone too far, it was yesterday's reaction to news that Goldman could receive $1 billion, should troubled lender CIT (NYSE: CIT ) file for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, taxpayers would lose 100% of the $2.3 billion invested from TARP last year. Nearly every financial news outlet covered the story with undertones of how Goldman has yet again used its influence to unfairly capitalize off others' misfortune.
"If CIT fails, Goldman wins -- with a $1 billion-plus payoff," says one site. "Some times it seems like Goldman Sachs has a single-sided coin that always comes up heads," says another.
Skimmed over, if mentioned at all, is that there's no windfall or special treatment of any sort here: $1 billion is the net present value of what Goldman is contractually owed, spelled out clear as day, from a June 2008 secured lending facility. By "secured," we mean that, in the event of default, Goldman holds collateral it can seize to make itself whole, as is customary in something called "responsible lending." As The Wall Street Journal put it in June 2008:
Given that any investment in financial services these days is a risky one, Goldman took care with the terms of the financing. To address the risk Goldman was taking, the facility was structured as a total return swap, backed by CIT's investment-grade asset-backed securities, such as aircraft leases. Goldman can seize the collateral if it needs to.
Or as CIT's own regulatory filing explained last year:
In the event that [CIT] exercises its right to terminate the Facility early, [CIT] will be required to pay [Goldman] a makewhole amount equal to the discounted present value of the facility fee for the remaining term of the Facility.
That discounted "makewhole" amount is exactly what Goldman will receive if CIT fails -- as was spelled out in clear terms several months before anyone whispered the words "taxpayer bailout." Anyone -- yes, even the government -- could have asked for the same terms to cover their backs. There were no secrets here.
But what makes this uproar seriously pointless is that CIT has more than one secured lender. Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) , for example, lent CIT $500 million on a secured basis as well. It, too, will have dibs on the lender's assets, even as taxpayers get wiped out. As will the other holders of CIT's $17.6 billion of secured borrowings.
Yet strangely, I couldn't find one story implying Wells Fargo, or any other secured lender, has a "single-sided" coin. Not one, amid dozens of anti-Goldman articles.
Should we be wary of Goldman's influence? Yes. Should we throw up our hands and shout "conspiracy!" every time there's a legitimate business transaction? Please, no.
What do you think? Is the anti-Goldman movement getting out of control? Let me know in the comment section below.