Goldman Sachs Settles SEC Subprime Mortgage-CDO Related Charges for $550 Million

Goldman, Sachs & Co. has agreed to reform its business practices and pay $550M to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that it misled investors about a synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO) just as the housing market was failing. By agreeing to settle the securities fraud lawsuit, Goldman is admitting that information in the marketing materials for the product was incomplete.

The SEC case involves Abacus 2007-AC1, one of 25 investment vehicles that Goldman created so that certain clients could bet against the housing market. Unfortunately, when the market did fail, investors lost over $1 billion. Meantime, the investment bank yielded profits and John A. Paulson, the hedge fund manager that the SEC says asked Goldman to create the 2007-AC1, made money from bets he made against certain mortgage bonds.

While investors were told that an independent manager was choosing the bonds, the SEC contends that Goldman allowed Paulson to choose mortgage bonds that he thought were likely to drop in value. However, clients were not notified about Paulson & Co. Inc.’s part in the portfolio selection process or that Paulson had taken a short position against the CDO. The investment bank then sold the package to investors that would only turn a profit if the value of the bonds went up.

The $550 million penalty against Goldman is the largest that the SEC has ordered a financial services company. By agreeing to settle, Goldman is not denying or admitting to the allegations. $300 million of the fine will go to the U.S. Treasury, while $250 million will be repaid to investors that suffered losses.

Goldman Sachs to Pay Record $550 Million to Settle SEC Charges Related to Subprime Mortgage CDO, US Securities and Exchange Commission, July 15, 2010
Goldman Settles With S.E.C. for $550 Million, NY TImes, July 15, 2010
Read the SEC Complaint against Goldman Sachs (PDF)

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