Have you ever wanted to be in a fiduciary relationship with a financial institution that seeks to exploit you? Or how about one that analogizes your existence to a fictional puppet that sings and dances to its maniacal handler's delight?
If so, then I have great news for you. According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, the investment bank Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) and private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (NYSE: KKR ) are both in the process of structuring investment products for the individual investor -- though in Goldman's case, Muppets with less than $10 million need not apply.
Why would they stoop so low and subject themselves to the masses? Have they finally acquired a conscience for the havoc they contributed to before and during the financial crisis -- to say nothing of the role Goldman may have played more recently in Facebook's disastrous IPO?
I'm sorry to tell you this, but no. The reason boils down to dollars and cents -- their dollars and cents, that is.
In Goldman's case, according to the Journal, "the firm 'pays' 2 percentage points less to individual investors with three-year certificates of deposit than by raising debt of similar maturity [in the capital markets]." In other words, Goldman probably wants cheaper money to gamble with -- though, like JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) and the infamous London Whale debacle, those involved would audibly gasp at such an outlandish insinuation and, at the very least, would never admit to it.
Meanwhile KKR is simply trying to diversify its business away from private equity investments and in the direction of mutual funds. According to the Financial Times, KKR has filed registration documents with regulators for two funds -- one to invest in high-yield credit instruments and the other to target "special situations" such as the European debt crisis. The buy-in for these is rumored to be a much more manageable $2,500.
Traitors to their class
While these moves could lead one to conclude that Wall Street's finest are caving to the whims of the proletariat, in reality, the decision is a natural progression since both decided to go public. Goldman did so in 1999 after decades of debate among its partners -- though it offered only 12% of its shares to the public at the time. And KKR cashed in more recently, going public in 2010 and earning its two founders and named-partners an estimated $800 million each in proceeds.
In addition to this, there's been a clear trend, at least in the private equity industry, of diversification. The undisputed leader of the industry, Blackstone (NYSE: BX ) , operates in a variety of sectors including merger and acquisitions advisory, hedge funds, credit, real estate, and private equity. Just prior to the economic downturn, for instance, the firm was able to buy and then parcel out pieces of Sam Zell's Equity Office Properties in one of the biggest and most accretive leveraged buyouts in all of history.
Foolish bottom line
At the end of the day, I have no idea whether investing in one of these new products will be good or bad for investors. However, even if I had $10 million to invest, my gut instinct would be to run in the opposite direction. There's just something unsavory about paying someone to call you a Muppet.