An intelligent guess at who's at risk after the SEC charges Goldman Sachs

04/20/2010 10:30 am EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

Who’s next?

Now that the SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission) has filed a civil fraud suit against Goldman Sachs (GS), Wall Street’s favorite game is guessing which big bank the agency might name next.

Some of the lists have no credulity at all—they’re simply guess-work mixed with spite.

Others depend solely on whether you believe the source is somehow in the know.

A list from Credit Suisse (CS) that’s making the rounds today from hand to hand and in a Bloomberg story does, however, have a reasonable methodology and solid numbers.

And it makes very interesting reading.

What Credit Suisse did was to put together a list of the lead underwriters of CDO deals with the “salient characteristics” of the Goldman Sachs deal that’s the subject of the SEC charges.

You remember that the Goldman deal involved a CDO (collateralized debt obligation) based on a derivative that was based on a pool of residential mortgages. The SEC has charged, to simplify greatly, that at the behest of a client, hedge fund Paulson & Co., which wanted to bet that mortgage-backed securities were going down, Goldman structured a CDO that was likely to fail. The CDO, the SEC has charged, was sold to other investors with the representation that the mortgage-backed securities behind the CDO had been picked by an independent company but in fact, the SEC said in its complaint, Paulson & Co. had influenced what mortgage-backed securities went into the CDO. (For more on the SEC charges and what it means for Wall Street see my post ) Goldman Sachs has denied all wrong-doing.

Bank of Americas (BAC) turns up at the top of Credit Suisse list.  Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch (and its book of CDO deals it had underwritten) in January 2009.  The combined companies had $16.9 billion in collateralized debt obligations similar, in Credit Suisse’s analysis, to the one named in the SEC’s civil fraud charge against Goldman Sachs.

UBS (UBS) of Switzerland ranked second on the list with $15.8 billion in similar CDOs and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) ranked third with $9.9 billion. JPMorgan Chase bought Bear Stearns, one of the biggest players in the mortgage-backed market in 2008.

Goldman Sachs ranked ninth on the list with $6.1 billion in CDOs.

Credit Suisse doesn’t pretend to know if any of the CDOs at any of the companies on this list include the alleged conflicts of interest that the SEC has cited in its case against Goldman. All the report does is tell investors who might be at risk because of the volume of deals they handled.

Nothing more. Nothing less.
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