Shocked Over the NY Times' Goldman Sachs Op-Ed? Here's a Reminder that the Vampire Squid Has Been Doing This for a Long, Long Time

 William Cohan at the Washington Post has a great reminder today for those who were shocked, shocked at reading Greg Smith's bridge burning expose. Fact is, Goldman has been doing this stuff for a long, long time. Cohan tells one particular story from the late 1960s:

There are numerous examples of Goldman putting its own interests first. But one will suffice: the June 1970 bankruptcy of Penn Central Transportation Company, the nation’s largest railroad.

At the time, Penn Central operated 20,530 miles of track in 16 states and two Canadian provinces and provided 35 percent of all railroad passenger service in the United States. The company also had substantial real estate holdings, including Grand Central Terminal in New York, along with much of the land on Park Avenue between Grand Central and the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Nevertheless, Penn Central ended up defaulting on $87 million of its short-term unsecured debt — known in the industry as “commercial paper” — and Goldman was at the epicenter of its financial difficulties.

In 1968, after years of being shut out of doing business with many of the nation’s railroads — in large part because it was a Jewish-owned firm — Goldman won the opportunity to underwrite Penn Central’s commercial paper, widely seen as among the safest short-term investments. For large fees, Goldman sold the paper to its clients, including big companies such as American Express and Disney, and smaller ones such as Welch’s Foods, the grape-juice maker, and Younkers, a Des Moines-based retailer. Welch’s and Younkers, particularly, counted on the fact that Goldman told them that the Penn Central paper was safe and could be easily redeemed. Welch’s invested $1 million — some of it payroll cash — and Younkers invested $500,000, both at Goldman’s recommendation.

After Penn Central filed for bankruptcy, an SEC investigation discovered that Goldman had continued to sell the railroad’s debt to its clients at 100 cents on the dollar — even though, by the end of 1969, the firm knew that Penn Central’s finances were deteriorating rapidly. Not only was Goldman privy to Penn Central’s internal numbers, it also heard repeatedly from the railroad’s executives that it was rapidly running out of cash.

Par for the course. Not that anyone will actually do anything about it. That would be "partisan" and "not in the spirit of getting things done for the American people."

Hullabaloo / By David Atkins

Posted at March 19, 2012, 3:24am

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