Goldman Sachs Settles SEC Fraud Suit for $550 Million

Record penalty and acknowledgement that 'Goldman misled investors.'

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Goldman Sachs settled fraud charges brought in April by the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with a collateralized debt obligation (CDO), the SEC announced Thursday, July 15. According to the announcement, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay a record $550 million to investors that bought the security and to the U.S. Treasury.

The April fraud charge alleged that "Goldman failed to disclose to investors vital information about the CDO, known as ABACUS 2007-AC1, particularly the role that hedge fund Paulson & Co. Inc. played in the portfolio selection process and the fact that Paulson had taken a short position against the CDO," according to the SEC news release. (See "SEC Charges Goldman Sachs with Fraud.")

Of the $550 million, $150 million will be paid to Deutsche Industriebank AG, and $100 million will go to Royal Bank of Scotland, which was "formerly known as ABN AMRO Bank N.V." according to the Goldman Sachs judgment. The balance, $300 million, will go to the SEC which must turn it over to the U.S. Treasury.

"Half a billion dollars is the largest penalty ever assessed against a financial services firm in the history of the SEC," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "This settlement is a stark lesson to Wall Street firms that no product is too complex, and no investor too sophisticated, to avoid a heavy price if a firm violates the fundamental principles of honest treatment and fair dealing."

In the Goldman Sachs Consent filed with the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, Goldman Sachs acknowledged the following:

Goldman acknowledges that the marketing materials for the ABACUS 2007-AC1 transaction contained incomplete information. In particular, it was a mistake for the Goldman marketing materials to state that the reference portfolio was "selected by" ACA Management LLC without disclosing the role of Paulson & Co. Inc. in the portfolio selection process and that Paulson's economic interests were adverse to CDO investors. Goldman regrets that the marketing materials did not contain that disclosure.

The settlement will not be final until Barbara S. Jones, U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York approves it.

Comments? Please send them to Kate McBride is editor in chief of Wealth Manager and a member of The Committee for the Fiduciary Standard.

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