Goldman Sachs Pays $10 Million to Settle Allegations of Questionable Investor Relations

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will pay $10 million after Massachusetts securities regulators contended its “research huddles” were dishonest and unethical, according to a Wall Street Journal article “Goldman Fined $10 Mln By Massachusetts Over Research ‘Huddles'” by Liz Moyer that has New York securities lawyers singing the court’s praises.

The state said the “huddles,” which included communications between top analysts and top clients, gave special access, information and tips to select clients, which other clients did not receive. Goldman admitted no wrongdoing; investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority are ongoing.
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New York securities attorneys note the increasing number of investigations into the advice investment firms are doling out in the wake of the economic collapse; some have been accused of touting the safety of real estate securities even as they were moving top clients and funds out of real-estate-backed products.

An experienced law firm should be brought in to handle audits and investigations in New York at the earliest possible stages of such cases. In many cases, how you handle requests for information and respond to investigative entities — both formally and informally — can have a dramatic effect on the outcome of your case. As Peter Henning at the New York Times recently reported in “Zealous Advocacy vs. Obstructive Conduct”, there can be a fine line between zealous advocacy and obstruction — a fact both executives and their attorneys must always be aware. At the same time, you need a law firm with the knowledge, experience and resources to stand up for your rights — not to cave to government intimidation.

In this case, the Goldman probe began two years ago. Massachusetts regulators did not conclude there was any fraud — nor did they accuse Goldman of previewing rating changes with clients. The allegations came in the wake of a $1.4 billion settlement the company reached in 2003, after regulators accused its research division of being too cozy with top investors. In revamping Goldman’s Research Division, it developed initiatives referred to internally as “asymmetric service initiative” and “client prioritization.”

Massachusetts regulators point to a profit motive when the huddles began in 2006. The groups included traders, analysts and sales people. Clients were tiered according to their revenue-generating potential. Top clients were reportedly given access to those who had attended the huddle; information included short-term trading ideas.

A consent order with Massachusetts reveals revenue in the asymmetrical service initiative rose 40 percent — generating $17.9 million.

The company reportedly split clients into tiers, with tier 1 and tier 2 clients being given access to those in the huddle, while tier 3 clients — which included several state mutual funds and pension funds — were made to go through traditional channels.

As Christine Harper with Bloomberg News reports in “Goldman Sachs Settles Massachusetts Probe of ‘Huddles'” the settlement ends the two-year investigation into New York-based Goldman Sachs’ Asymmetric Service Initiative. The company will discontinue the practice as part of the agreement.

If you are the victim of investment or securities fraud, or other illegal activity as an investor or employee , contact Malecki Law for a free consultation nationwide. Call 212-943-1233.