Last September, during the peak of market hysteria, Goldman Sachs
Or so we thought.
Now that liquidity and confidence have returned, the need for a bank charter -- which provides greater access to Federal Reserve funds and emergency bailout procedures -- has dwindled. Banks' profits have exploded. Pay packages are setting records. Champagne flows freely. Nothing to see here: It's like the meltdown never even happened.
A recent Reuters article shows that some investors actually believe this. They want Goldman to ditch its bank charter, freeing itself from the associated pay restrictions and leverage regulation.
"Bank earnings are hindered by too much regulation" said one investor, who apparently missed the memo that Goldman's making so much money, record money, that CEO Lloyd Blankfein had to tell employees to quit living large.
In Goldman's defense, it says it has no plans to dump its bank charter. And thank goodness, really. Doing so would be one of the worst ideas ever.
A reminder to Goldman investors: Markets are not fully healed. They're being supported by a few trillion dollars of backstops. Big difference.
Confidence has returned …. just like it did in the fall of 2007, spring of 2008, and last December. Maybe the worst is behind us. Maybe it's not. No one knows. And that's the point. The old investment banking model works great … until it doesn't, at which point the pillars of the entire global financial system collapse.
To assume that Mr. Market won't return with sledgehammer in hand, mad as all hell, shows the tragedy of short-term thinking. The liquidity aspect of this crisis has been suppressed, thanks to massive Federal Reserve intervention, but a bigger problem -- bad loans sitting on banks' books -- still looms. Banks like Citigroup
Is it possible that another panic could evolve, if investors again start questioning the value of those assets? Sure. And if it did, would Goldman face another funding crisis as a non-bank-holding company? Yep.
And would taxpayers happily support bailout part deux if Goldman purposefully ditched its aid the first time around, in order to juice profits? No, they wouldn't.
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Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool's disclosure policy has the amazing ability to remember things that happened more than three months ago.