Monday, 13 April 2009 01:00

Reggie Middleton's Goldman Sach's Stress Test: Breaking Ranks with the Crowd Once Again!

Nearly one year ago I made clear to all, for
absolutely free, that Goldman Sachs was akin to an overpriced hedge
fund. The bulk of their profits come from proprietary trading, as do
the bulk of the their economic risk added. I first started going
bearish on Goldman in July with a flurry of puts with the share price
at about $180. Everybody and their mother told me how shorting Goldman
would be disastrous. Well, I need a few more disasters like that for my
account this year. Take a looksee:

I have recent research on Goldman, marking
assets to what I believe to be realistic marks to be expected from the
PPIP program, for my subscribers:

pdf Goldman Sachs Valuation Model updated for PPIP - Retail 2009-04-04 19:50:51 333.54 Kb

pdf Goldman Sachs Valuation Model updated for PPIP - Pro 2009-04-04 19:52:21 564.75 Kb

Well, the story significantly predates PPIP, and at the end of this article I will release my stress test results for Goldman Sachs. Drum roll, please....

In June of last year I made it clear that
Goldman was trading on name brand premium only, and a premium that was
quite undeserved. This premium was paid by those who don't like to run
numbers and observe correlations, two activities which happen to be my
specialty. See "
Goldman Sachs Snapshot: Risk vs. Reward vs. Reputations on the Street", from which I have excerpted the justifications for my bearish moves:

have looked at company’s recent quarterly filings and 10K to have a
closer view of Goldman Sachs’ (GS) exposure. Following are some of our

Value at Risk (VAR) and Risk Adjusted Return on Risk Adjusted Capital (RARORAC)

Goldman has the highest VAR among its peer group of $184 mn, followed by Lehman at distant $123 mn (we all know how well LEH is currently faring). Notably, GS also the highest range (difference of highest and lowest daily VAR during a quarter) of daily trading VAR of $92 million, reflecting significant (read risky) volatility
in its trading portfolio. This is higher than $61 mn and $67 mn (for
1Q2008) for Lehman and JPM, respectively. This is also being reflected
in the lowest risk adjusted return on risk adjusted capital (RARORAC -
a much more grounded measure of risk adjusted return) of 14.8% for GS
among its peer group. Just so this doesn't escape anybody, GS has the
lowest risk adjusted return on the Street. Simply analyzing earnings (or looking at CNBC) would lead one to believe that Goldman has the highest return on investment, but unfortunately, the world is a bit more complex than an earnings statement or a cable news channel.

Average Daily Trading VAR (in million dollars)





Goldman Sachs





Morgan Stanley





Merrill Lynch





Lehman Brothers










Range of Daily Trading VAR (Difference between highs and lows) (in million dollars)





Goldman Sachs





Morgan Stanley





Merrill Lynch





Lehman Brothers











  • Risk Adjusted return on risk adjusted capital (RARORAC)





Goldman Sachs





Morgan Stanley





Merrill Lynch





Lehman Brothers










Goldman also has the highest adjusted leverage ratio (adjusted
asset divided by adjusted equity) of 18.6x (for 1Q2008) among its peer
group, reflecting lower equity cushion against any valuation write-down
or loss. This highest leverage portends much greater volatility in
economic earnigns. In other words, when the win chooses not to blow in
their direction, the sh1t will hit the fan that much harder than the
rest of the Street

Adjusted leverage ratio





Goldman Sachs





Morgan Stanley





Merrill Lynch





Lehman Brothers










Click here for a worksheet that illustrates the VaR exposure for all ofthe big US brokers in detail: icon Broker VaR Worksheet (634.49 kB 2008-07-05 09:25:24).

Goldman Sachs’ exposure

  • GS’
    level 3 assets as percentage of its equity at 258% is close to highest
    figure of 274% among its peer group. Its level 3 assets proportion to
    total asset has increased consistently from 5.7% in 2Q2007 to 8.1% in
  • It
    is also worth noting that approximately 25% of its OTC derivative
    credit exposure (comprised in level 3 assets) is rated BBB and lower.

OTC Derivative Credit Exposure ($ mn)


% of total


% of total





















BB/Ba2 or lower















  • In March 2008, Standard & Poor’s affirmed Group Inc.’s credit ratings but revised its outlook from “stable” to “negative.

a positive side, the investment banks’ has been able to withstand the
current turmoil in the credit market and has been the best performing
banks when looked at mark-to-market writedown of its asset portfolio. I
must note that it is my belief that this immunity to the markdown mania
was achieved by the very risky trading in hedges and opposing
positions. This is most likely what drove up the risk comonent in their
economic capital. In 2Q2008, the writedown in cash instruments and
other assets was more than offset by gains in derivative contracts. It
also seems to have one of the lowest exposure exposure into Alt-A and
subprime asset categories.


recent change in some of the variables (level 3 assets, VAR, adjusted
leverage ratio) indicate that the bank may be susceptible to slowing
capital market activities and further deterioration in the credit and
financial markets.

Needless to say, Goldman has earned itself a full forensic analysis. I will report back when I have the results.

Now Back to the Present

Well, now its time to revisit Goldman, for
they are still significantly overpriced given the amount of risk they
take. Remember, risk is the price for reward and many investors simply
overpay. Those investors who will be paying $120something per share for
the third or fourth equity offerring in 12 months from a company that
is loaded with overleveraged, rapidly devaluing assets in an awful
macro operating environment, that has just been saddled with a
significant amount of new operating restrictions due to their new
status as a commercial bank holding company and the acceptance of TARP,
not to mention the fact that this company is now just essentially a big
hedge fund are case in point - paying $1.50 worth of risk for a $1's
worth of reward. It seems cheap when the risk doesn't come up with
snake eyes, but keep rolling those dice...

Goldman is just a big, over priced hedge fund now! It says so clear
as day in my blog posting nearly one year and 300% (or so) in short profits ago
and right in their most recent quarterly earnings announcement!

From Bloomberg on Goldman's most recent earnings:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the
sixth-biggest U.S. bank by assets, plans to raise $5 billion to
repay (code words for DILUTE currently beat up shareholders, many of whom are nursing 50% losses already)
U.S. government rescue funds (Hmmm!
Why did you need or even accept "rescue" funds, not to mention 10%
preferred money in a 5% environment from Buffet! Sounds to me like you
needed to be rescued!
) after posting profit that
exceeded the most optimistic Wall Street estimates.

The New York-based bank said today it will use proceeds
from the common stock offering plus “additional resources” to
redeem the $10 billion it got from the U.S. Treasury’s Troubled
Asset Relief Program. [They
are robbing Peter to pay Paul! They cannot afford to pay back the TARP
now, but they are doing it to avoid pay restricitions. Why should the
government even allow it??!!! If you are going to pay back money, pay
back Warren Buffet's money. It is costing Goldman nearly twice what the
TARP money is costing, and the TARP is insisting on cutting
compensation costs, which is effectively making the money even cheaper.
I am not a lawyer, but I sense a shareholder law suit building merit
here. It is obvious to me that management is acting in management's
best interest and not the best interest of the shareholder by failing
to adhere to the prudent man rule. I don't want to hear the argument
that they need to retain XYZ talent either. That is the same talent
that had them running, hat in hand to Buffet @ 10% in a 6% environemtn,
taking TARP with the inevitable strings attached, and becoming a
commerical bank on Wall Street at risk of offereing free toasters to
open up savings accounts. Mayhap they may be better off finding a new
pool of talent under a new compensation structure. The old one didn't
seem to work out that well. The company hasn't been public that long,
yet would have been driven out of business save the government's
expedition of the bank charter and the TARP funds. Just think about it!
] The company said it earned $1.81 billion,
or $3.39 a share, in the first quarter as a surge in trading
revenue [code
worded: our hedge fund operations are practically taking over the
entire company since hedge fund style trading is the only thing that is
making money. I hope nobody looks at the risk/reward metrics that
Reggie Middleton is posting on his Blog. I also hope nobody looks at
the valuation given publicly traded hedge funds, private equity funds
and asset managers these days, either
] outweighed asset writedowns, beating the $1.64 estimate
of 16 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein, 54, is raising
capital to shore up finances [really, 'cause when I add up the numbers, it looks like you are raising just barely enough to pay back the government] and repay government money the bank
got in October after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings
Inc. Goldman Sachs was the most-profitable Wall Street firm
before converting to a bank last year and posting its first
quarterly loss since the company went public in 1999.

“The only toxic thing on their balance sheet is the TARP
and they want to get rid of that as soon as they can,” said
Gary Townsend, president of Hill-Townsend Capital LLC. in Chevy
Chase, Maryland. The earnings show “they’re taking enormous
market share away from virtually everyone else.” [I'll
tend to disagree with you here buddy. The TARP is worth just as much
now as when it was issued, actually probably more with cash dividends.
Can you say that about all of the private equity, MBS, ABS, CDO,
leveraged loans, equity, commodity and fixed income derivatives that GS
has on its balance sheet? You should have some salt and pepper handy
for when you are forced to eat those words, buddy! Let's see if GS will
get away with offering the Treasury 50 to 80 cents on the dollar to
pay back the TARP

The company, which changed its fiscal year to end in
December instead of November, also reported results for the
month of December today. They showed the bank lost $780 million,
or $2.15 per share, as losses in fixed-income trading and
principal investments overwhelmed revenue from other units. [Uh
huh! Just as I warned above. You keep rolling those dice and you will
come up with snake eyes eventually. This company is just big hedge
fund, plain and simple. See my VAR and RAROC notes above. To think, the
multiple that people are about to pay for this company's stock given
the risk that they are taking to achieve rapidly decreasing and highly unstable
profits. In addition, don't we have a littel earnings arbitrage here,
with this spare month of reporting dangling (with losses big enough to
ruin the taste of desert), it appears that GS has managed to sneak the
less than stellar news past most pundits in the fiscal year switch. How
about adding the December results into the first quarter. Wouldn't that
make sense? But then again the result wouldn't have that accounting
shenanigan kick to it, would it?

Book Value

Book value per share rose to $98.82 at the end of March
from $98.68 in November [well,
there's economic (or real) book value then there's accounting book
value, which is just about as real as your local lobbyist's get well
wishes - see my stress test results with FASB fantasy attachments below or you can see my FASB Fantasy Instruction Manual
], and return on equity, a gauge of how
effectively the firm invests earnings, was 14.3 percent in the
first quarter, the company said.

First-quarter revenue was $9.43 billion. Fixed-income
trading revenue was a record $6.56 billion, 34 percent higher
than its previous mark, as client-driven income outweighed an
$800 million loss on commercial mortgage loans, excluding

Goldman Sachs benefited as the gap between what banks pay
to buy fixed-income securities and the price at which they sell,
the so-called bid-ask spread, almost doubled to 19 basis points
in six months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. [and what will happen to these earings if these spreads collapse back to mean levels??? This is not sustainable!]

Equity Trading

Every other business unit had lower revenue compared with
the first quarter of 2008, or reported a loss. [Let me repeat this line so it sinks in for everybody: "
other business unit had lower revenue compared with the first quarter
of 2008, or reported a loss." HMMM! So, spreads blowout in the last six
months of trading (out of 10 years of being a public company) which
results in what is apparently a one time (maybe two or three at the
most) gain in profits which is probably backed by some of the highest
VAR and lowest RAROC and any other risk weighted reward metric available's
measure while the rest of the entire company did worse, much worse or
took a loss. Just as I told you in the beginning, Goldman Sachs is a
big, overvalued HEDGE FUND with a big private equity arm. Why don't you
guys look at what valuations similar funds are trading at. Here's some
hints: Man Group, Plc (hey, go ask the Brits), Blackstone (just ask the
Chinese), and Fortress. Now, compare that with what you are about to
pay Goldman so they can pay back their "Rescue" money in order for
upper management to recieve larger bonuses. If investors thought more,
or read BoomBustBlog more, I think they would be a lot wealthier!

Equity trading revenue was $2.0 billion as slower activity
outside the U.S. meant the firm generated fewer trading
commissions than a year ago.

Investment banking revenue of $823 million compared with
$1.17 billion in the first quarter of 2008, reflecting a decline
in leveraged finance activity and fewer mergers and share
offerings. [With
investment banking fees being only 13% of trading revenue, no wonder
why GS is not calling itself an investment bank anymore. It is not. It
is a trading company with a small investment banking arm, as is evident
from its revenue breakdown. In other words, its a HEDGE FUND! Yeah,
that's righ! I said it again. I wouldn't bet anything of value that you
see it again before you finsih reading this missive, either!

Asset management fees slumped 28 percent to $949 million as
assets under management fell 3.3 percent. Securities services,
which include the firm’s prime brokerage unit, made $503
million, 30 percent less than the first quarter of 2008.

Goldman Sachs had a $1.41 billion net loss from principal
investments, including a $151 million loss from the firm’s
investment in Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd. [and this was with significantly added freedom granted by the Fantasy Accounting Standards Boards, aka FASB]

The bank set aside $4.71 billion to pay compensation and
benefits, 18 percent more than the first quarter a year earlier.
The expense totaled 50 percent of revenue, up from 48 percent in
the first quarter last year. The number of employees, which fell
7 percent during the quarter to 27,989, is 12 percent lower than
the first quarter of last year. [Let's
put this into perspective for all of the small business men and womand
and fellow entrepneurs out their who can't understand this pay for no
reward fee structure talk. Goldman has reduced revenues, reduced
profits and losses in every business segment except for the highly
risky and highly unpredictable fixed income trading (that's right, I'm
saying it again - HEDGE FUND - business, and they are paying a Moby (my)
Dick, Whopping Whale style, 260% of thier (only one profitable business
unit, that is probably not sustainable) profit to employees this
quarter, after taking a flat out loss last quarter, and apparently
smoothing over the fact that they would have taken a loss this quarter
if they didn't shift the fiscal year by a month and benefit from the
Fantasy Accounting Standards Boards, aka FASB new
rules. And on top of all that, they are issuing $5 billion of common
equity to dilute existing shareholders to pay back the TARP so they can
pay out even more in executive compensation, all the while leaving the
much, much more (as in more than twice) expensive Buffet financing in place
. Now, this is the most egregious, blatant, and anti-shareholder behavior that has ever come across this blog in terms of management behavior, expect for maybe the Flim Flam Scam! The difference is that everybody admits the Flim Flam Scam is just that, but most in the MSM still preach and believe that Goldmans sh1t doesn't stink! Listen boys and girls - I won't
even pay myself 260% of my profit, and I don't have public shareholders
to answer to. Then again, I guess neither does Goldman since no one is
bitching besides me.
You guys can talk
about my man Obama all you want, but it appears that his idea of
reigning in Wall Street executive compensation has a whole lot more
merit than it is given credit for.

Obama Actually Did Wall Street a Favor

The Wall Street Pay Dilemma Really Shouldn't Be Much of a Dilemma at all!

I Went to a Fight and a Compensation Committee Meeting Broke Out! - Class, Compensation & the Street


Assets Rose

Total assets on Goldman Sachs’s balance sheet rose 5
percent from the end of November to $925 billion as of March 27.
Of that, about $59 billion qualified as “Level 3” assets,
which are the hardest to value, down from $66 billion at the end
of November. [Assets
rose, despite the fact that more than 2.6x the retained earnings were
paid out as compensation and nearly all business units declined or took
a loss. I think it's safe to say that leverage increased here fellas. I
doubt if equity cash bougth these assets. Think about it boys and
girls, increased trading activity leads to higher short term profits in
an illiquid, spread blown highly volatile market. This bank grows its
balance sheet to take advantage of it in a leveraged fashion. Can
anyone see the risk of a blow up here, or is it just me?

Goldman Sachs raised $5.75 billion by selling shares at
$123 apiece in September in an offering that started after the
company announced that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
bought $5 billion in preferred stock.

A month later, Goldman Sachs was among nine financial
institutions that shared $125 billion in the first payments from
the Treasury’s $700 billion bailout program.

“A stock sale would be a good thing for the government; it
would be a good thing for Goldman Sachs or any other bank which
was able to do it, especially if they were also able to repay
the TARP,” said Roy Smith, a finance professor at New York
University’s Stern School of Business and a former partner at
Goldman Sachs. [Now there's an unbiased opinion if I ever heard one!] “They would be free of the high cost of the
dividend paid in after-tax dollars and the other restrictions,
which everybody realizes they would like to get out of.” [But wouldn't they be freer, if they paid off the higher cost Buffet dividends? As I said, about as unbiased as it can get.]

Rivals Pressure

If Goldman Sachs returns the TARP money, it may pressure
other banks to follow suit or risk appearing dependent on the
government, Brad Hintz, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein Co.
in New York, said before today’s announcement. [Or they may risk looking like they are putting the shareholder's interests before management's, but why mince words?]

“The right thing for government officials to do will be to
delay the GS repayment until a significant group of banks are
able to repay simultaneously under some organized plan,” Hintz
said. [Actually,
the right thing to do would be to delay all repayments until they can
be made prudently and in the best interests of the shareholders, and
not the interests of management.

Blankfein said last week at a conference in Washington
sponsored by the Council of Institutional Investors that the
U.S. funds Wall Street firms received wasn’t intended to be
“permanent capital.”

‘That Minute’

“The minute that an institution is allowed to return the
money and is capable of returning the money, while still
carrying out its obligations and its role in the capital markets
effectively, then it should do it that minute,” Blankfein said. [Hey, you're about as unbiased as that other Goldman guy, aren't you?]

Goldman Sachs has gained 55 percent this year to close at
$130.15 today in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The
price is more than double the stock’s closing low of $52 on Nov.

Free research and opinion

§ As Reality hits, the Masters of the Universe are starting to look like regular bank employees

Premium Stuff!

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GS ABS Inventory GS ABS Inventory 2008-02-25 06:48:56 1.22 Mb

Since I ramble a bit in this post, I will put the stress test results in a follow up post to make the articels a little shorter.

Last modified on Monday, 13 April 2009 01:00


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  • Comment Link Reggie Middleton Wednesday, 10 June 2009 16:37 posted by Reggie Middleton

    6 tickers out of maybe 60, 3 months or so out of about 24? and you call yourself an investor? This is why I felt I had to warn Alex about you. Hey, I may be wrong about the tickers above (well, it's tool lage to be wrong about GS, since it is still quite profitable), but we really won't know until some time runs its course.

    What happens when the market turns back down driving my research deep into the black? Are you then going to about face an sing my praises? I said many times, many times, I don' do short term trades. So, this three month rally is absolutely no reflection on whether I believe I a wrong or right, and I have no problem admitting when I am wrong. Now, on to the next point...

    I actually spend a LOT of time responding to your highly unproductive posts. This time reduces the value of the site to those readers who actually would like me to spend my time putting out more research and opinion in lieu of responding to your hearsay, etc. I have been very tolerant of you, but you are finally, and really succeeding on getting on my damn nerves.

    I respectfully request that you slow down (in other words, stop name calling, and saying pssst, I got this hot tip, etc.) in your non productive posting so I would not have to respond in lieu of doing more productive things. This is still MY site!

    I welcome constructive analysis and research, though. If I feel I need to go behind your "gossipy" style posts much longer, I may have to take additional steps to squelch them. I don't want to do that, and apparently you want to be here, otherwise you would leave on your own accord. Right????!!!!

    I may be a little grouchy today, having some personal issues, but still, you've been an asshole long enough that even if you don't deserve this today, you have definitely deserved it in the past. The community as a whole has asked you to chill, I have told you to stop, I think its time you litened. Capiche?

  • Comment Link phirang Wednesday, 10 June 2009 16:21 posted by phirang

    Here's my retort:


  • Comment Link Alex Wednesday, 10 June 2009 16:18 posted by Alex

    Reggie - Thanks for the comments - I appreciate it!

  • Comment Link Reggie Middleton Wednesday, 10 June 2009 16:06 posted by Reggie Middleton

    Alex, I warn you that Phirang doesn't even know how to calculate bank profit, particularly in the case of a company like GS - or to be fair, he has yet to demonstrate the ability to do so. The GS is trade is still a profitable one from the outset. Whether they are overpriced from here on, only time will tell. I believe they are. Be warned though, Phirang follows fads, not fundamentals. Feel free to compare my track record over the last two years to Phirangs...

    It is unfortunate that I have to issue this warning about you Phirang, but not everybody has gone through your comments.

  • Comment Link phirang Wednesday, 10 June 2009 16:00 posted by phirang

    You're shorting the most profitable brokerage on Wall St. I admonished you guys NOT to short GS, but the "fundamentals" are apparently awful for GS.

  • Comment Link Reggie Middleton Wednesday, 10 June 2009 15:59 posted by Reggie Middleton

    I can't contro stock prices, my friend. All I can do is offer my researched and illsutrative opinion. If I am not mistaken, GS went up when I first went bearish on them as well. No one is always right, but even if I am right and the stock is truly overpriced, the share price may not necessarily reflect the intrinsic value at any given time.

  • Comment Link Alex Wednesday, 10 June 2009 15:52 posted by Alex

    Reggie - your comments here say that GS is overpriced, yet the price keeps going up - what gives?

  • Comment Link cube660 Sunday, 19 April 2009 13:54 posted by cube660

    A [b]must read[/b] document. Print it out and read it TWICE! Study_v1.pdf

    They have opined that.... [i][b]the dramatic recent widening of credit spreads is highly consistent with the decline in the equity market, the increase in its volatility, and an improved investor appreciation of the risks embedded in these securities. From this perspective, policies that attempt to prevent a widespread mark-down in the value of credit-sensitive assets are likely to only delay –and perhaps even worsen –the day of reckoning.[/b][/i]

  • Comment Link gerryt Saturday, 18 April 2009 21:24 posted by gerryt


  • Comment Link phirang Friday, 17 April 2009 10:38 posted by phirang

    I doubt anyone here has bothered to read it. Devil's in the details...

  • Comment Link Reggie Middleton Friday, 17 April 2009 04:06 posted by Reggie Middleton

    I wouldn't say I was way off base. If I am not mistaken, they need government "approval" to change their equity structure before paying back TARP. That is different from being forbidden from doing so. I don't see the government forbidding GS from paying back more expensive money to strengthen their capital structure. That was the purpose of TARP to begin with, as was explained to me by the politicians.

  • Comment Link Neil Friday, 17 April 2009 00:18 posted by Neil

    Reggie - if you read GS's filings carefully you'd know they cannot change their equity structure in any way until the TARP is paid back; it's a condition of the TARP. This explicitly means they cannot pay back Buffett first, so you are off base.

    Of course, they'd love to pay back Buffett; it's too expensive. I think you'll see both paid back within 6 months.

  • Comment Link greenja1 Thursday, 16 April 2009 15:21 posted by greenja1

    Stop and clap for the Bulls right now? Look at 'em run! I'm undercover, I don't know about anyone else. Could we just bankrupt GM now and get it over with?!?!?!

  • Comment Link shaunsnoll Wednesday, 15 April 2009 14:36 posted by shaunsnoll

    wether the stock is over valued or not you gotta give it to the GS boys sometimes. smart.

  • Comment Link phirang Tuesday, 14 April 2009 22:12 posted by phirang

    blackrock agrees with you.

    reg, go check out zerohedge blog. you two need to link up and become a BEHEMOTH. i think he's ny based, too.

  • Comment Link gjk313 Tuesday, 14 April 2009 22:01 posted by gjk313

    Reggie, your comments in red are hilarious! The financial shenanigans continue! That is what scares me most, it seems that the market does not care about the shenanigans.

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  • Comment Link oceanos Tuesday, 14 April 2009 16:47 posted by oceanos

    Are you sure that Goldman can buy back the Berkshire preferred? And if so, at what terms.

  • Comment Link shaunsnoll Tuesday, 14 April 2009 15:46 posted by shaunsnoll

    this stock is a good example of ridiculous valuation. damn near everyone of their businesses is TERRIBLE and going to continue to be terrible for a long time, and there trading will only get more and more constrained by increased banking regulation.

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