After beating estimates for its first quarter earnings report, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) still had some disappointing numbers and in its analyst conference call, the firm’s frustration showed.
In response to a question about a potential Moody’s Corporation (NYSE:MCO) downgrade to the firm and its investment bank brethren, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS)’s CFO David Viniar snapped, “We very strongly disagree with some of the things that Moody’s Corporation (NYSE:MCO) has mentioned in some of their reports. We think that if you look at every single credit metric there is for Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS), and frankly for many of our competitors, none of the actions they talked about are warranted.”
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The question stemmed from Moody’s February review of 17 banks for possible downgrades. The ratings firm noted that banks faced new economic and regulatory challenges such as greater credit spreads and challenging operating conditions that could hamper their growth prospects. At the time, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) did not comment.
Fast forward two months later and on Tuesday, Viniar added in the call, “We are as you know, we are quite analytical and when we do all of the analysis we cannot figure out why they are where they are. And so I just wanted to tell you that.”
In addition to questioning Moody’s Corporation (NYSE:MCO) math, Viniar also raised his eyebrows at the Federal Reserve’s addition and subtraction skills.
The CFO was also asked in the conference call about the results from stress tests and how the capital cushions from the largest banks had been reviewed by the Fed after their dividends and buybacks.
Viniar’s response? He was unsure how the Fed conducted its calculations.
Morgan Stanley to Potentially Face Steep Cuts
Should the ratings cut come, Viniar said he didn’t believe it would have “that big an effect” on the whole industry, according to The Wall Street Journal, but “there are some who might be more affected than others.”
And who does that include? Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) .Rumors have swirled that Goldman Sachs’s Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) rival may face a three-notch cut by Moody’s Corporation (NYSE:MCO) vs. a possible two-notch Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS) hit.
In a February 27 regulatory filing, Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) it may be required to infuse $4.7 billion in additional collateral or face termination payments by counterparties from the possible credit-rating downgrade. It also noted that it could face $919 million in collateral from a one-notch drop or $4 billion should a two-notch fall happen.
Bankers Running Out the Door
And while Moody’s Corporation (NYSE:MCO) and the Federal Reserve may not be able to do math, another prickly topic for Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. has been its inability to retain their bankers lately. In another interesting question in the conference call on Tuesday, Glenn Schorr of Nomura Equity Research inquired about the number of senior producers leaving Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. over the last few months.
He asked Viniar to put it into context.
“We have statistically 15 to 20 percent of our partners leave every two years. You go back in history and you’ve seen that. And over the last four years coming into this year, very, very few left. And I think that was a testament to people’s feelings about Goldman Sachs. It was a tough economic environment. It was a tough reputational environment, and our partners are completely loyal and felt that they should stay with Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS).
“I think as things have improved somewhat, what you’re seeing is a little bit of a catch-up. It’s natural and it’s actually important and it’s warranted because if it doesn’t happen then the next level of people, who are fantastic, don’t have the opportunity to move up. … I would expect that between now and the end of the year you’ll see more partners leaving. I couldn’t tell you who they’re going to be. It’s just the natural progression and our bench is so deep that it’s really not an issue at all.”
At the end of the day, while Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE:GS)’s profit doubled and its dividend will rise, the firm is still facing a lot of problems; they probably won’t be solved in the near future.