Monday, October 05, 2009
Jon Corzine: the man,the myth and the Goldman Sachs Years
Many of my readers have asked me to look into Jon Corzines days at Goldman and this is what I found:
In 1975, Jon Corzine moved to New Jersey, having taken a job as a securities trader at Goldman Sachs in New York. By 1980 he became a partner at Goldman. Jon Corzine rose rapidly through the ranks, to become chairman and CEO in 1994.
As CEO, Jon Corzine has been credited with engineering the transformation of Goldman Sachs from a private partnership to a public company. Smoothing out the volatility of Goldman’s earnings and producing a “kinder and gentler” company . Corzine had worked for nearly two years to transform the legendary partnership into a public company. Fighting significant resistance from many of the skeptical partners. Finally he succeeded in secret ballot,
However, Corzine was not universally popular as CEO, and was forced out in 1999
With the IPO approved Corzine took his family on a vacation. While he was away, three members of Goldman’s five-member executive committee, led by, Hank Paulson (the man he appointed ), staged a palace coup, stripping him of his CEO title and his power. The initial public offering (IPO) of Goldman went forward with out a hitch ,the stock created a huge windfall for the partners, including Corzine and made him a very wealthy man.
Mounting evidence has come to light that during Corzine's reign the firm may have manipulated the market and inflated stock prices through a controversial practice know as “laddering”,which was investigated by the SEC .Mr. Corzine is also considered by many the “architect” of ENRON. And the Center of the ENRON scandal and the Wall Street practices that led to the NASDAQ meltdown at the beginning of this decade
The two big issues that occurred on Corzines watch were the perceived facilitation of the ENRON debacle and the IPO bubble machine using a hybrid of “pump and dump” called“laddering” .
In 1993, Goldman Sachs “invented” a security called MIPS that offered ENRON Corp. and other companies an irresistible combination. It was designed in such a way that it could be called debt or equity, as needed. It resembled a loan, so that interest payments could be deducted from taxable income. For shareholders and rating agencies, who look askance at over leveraged companies, it resembled equity.
Officials at the Clinton Treasury Department, were skeptical of the so-called Monthly Income Preferred Shares, or MIPS. To them the MIPS looked like a charade ,a way for companies to hide the size of their debt while cutting their federal tax bill. CEO Corzine lobbied the treasury and eventually, the regulators acquiesced and Goldman and MIPS were off to the races. It has been alleged that Corzine’s used his lobbying activities, during that time , “benefitted him personally as an executive at Goldman Sachs.” It is claimed that Hybrid preferred shares helped mask the huge debt burden carried by companies like ENRON.
Goldman creates a new type of “Pump and Dump” called laddering.
According to Nicholas Maier, who was syndicate manager of the Wall Street firm Cramer & Co. from 1996 to 1998, Goldman Sachs routinely forced him to buy stocks at inflated prices if he wanted to purchase shares of an initial public offering (IPO). “Goldman, from what I witnessed, they were the worst perpetrator,” Maier said. “They totally fueled the [market] bubble. And it’s specifically that kind of behavior that has caused the market crash.
Maier told the SEC that Goldman Sachs would offer him shares of a new company’s IPO at the initial, low price of $20 per share only if he agreed to purchase “aftermarket” shares of the same company at $100 each. In turn, he would unload the shares of the higher-priced stock on small investors. Maier said. “Goldman created the convincing appearance of a winner, and the trick worked so well that many speculators were seduced into participating in this gold rush. The general public had no idea that these stocks were actually brought into the world at unnaturally high levels through illegal manipulation.”
In August 2000, the SEC issued a warning against aftermarket sales, also known as “laddering.” While Jon Corzine said ,“I’ve never even heard the term ‘laddering’ before”.Maier said it happened on Corzine’s watch. “For Corzine not to know of a common practice being utilized to generate and manipulate stock prices would be surprising,” Mr. Maier said. “He was obviously there during this time.
Trading profits are just too good
For some time Goldman Sachs has been accused by Wall Street insiders of employing sophisticated high speed computer programs to siphon of illegitimate profits from the New York Stock Exchange under the radar of regulators. Recently a former Goldman computer programer was arrested for allegedly stealing software codes used in the firms electronic trading operations .Federal prosecutors claim the codes were used to”manipulate the market in unfair ways”.
Goldman has also been accused by many of taking advantage of so many X Goldman employees working in high level government positions. These allegations can also be traced back to the Corzine days ,more recently however the focus has been on alleged favoritism during the Wall Street and banking bailout as well as the TARP funding. Its hard to imagine with so many high profile former executives that Goldman hasn’t received preferential treatment and information exchanges.
This is not to claim that Jon Corzine was directly involved or that there is some vast Goldman conspiracy at work but the fact of the matter is that he was there in there in the thick of it and that if you know anything about Wall Street you know that investment banks are one organization were the people at the top are directly involved in the most intimate details of day to day operations of their firms.