Goldman Sachs is reeling under public pressure
You acknowledge that we may monitor your use of the Services for our own purposes (and not for your benefit). We may use the resulting information for internal business purposes or in accordance with the rules of any applicable regulatory or self-regulatory body and in compliance with applicable law and regulation.via Is Goldman Legally Frontrunning Its Clients? | zero hedge.
After watching its thoroughly maladroit handling of several p.r. problems this week, I’m absolutely convinced that Goldman Sachs can be hurt if enough people keep piling on with the pressure. The latest evidence of this is its abject collapse in the face of questions from Zero Hedge about the possibility that it is using the data its takes from users of its website to front-run those same people.
Front-running takes place when a bank or broker-dealer– say, Goldman, Sachs — executes a trade for its own account before filling its customer’s order. Since a large enough trade (executed by institutional investors, for instance) can actually move the price of the security in question, front-running can be a very profitable activity. It’s sort of like fast-food insider trading. It is common knowledge that front-running on Wall Street is rampant, and I interviewed more than one person for my recent Rolling Stone story who accused Goldman of front-running its big clients in all sorts of arenas, from the internet IPO years to the commodities markets.
What caught Zero Hedge’s attention was a curious disclaimer uncovered on Goldman’s website, which includes a trading platform that visitors can use to execute trades. At one point the disclaimer read:
Monitoring by GS: Your use of the products and services on this Web site may be monitored by GS, and that the resultant information may be used by GS for its internal business purposes or in accordance with the rules of any applicable regulatory or self-regulatory organization.
Subsequently readers uncovered an even more sinister disclaimer that appears on other Goldman documents (see the quote at the top of this post with the key line “and not for your benefit”). So Tyler Durden over at Zero Hedge wrote to Goldman to ask if this meant what it quite obviously seems to mean, and got this response from the bank’s Senior Vice Scoundrel, Ed Canaday. Note the way he seems to be addressing Dick Durbin, which looks like a case of wish-fulfillment to me:
Dear Mr Durbin:
This is in response to your recent blog about our web site disclaimer. It is quite usual for websites to have disclaimers that refer to the monitoring of site usage. Most web sites, including yours we noticed, track usage by their visitors. This is primarily used for marketing and to help inform decision about enhancing content.
Your suggestion that we monitor our web site to facilitate front-running is untrue and offensive.
Goldman, Sachs & Co.
In exactly the same manner that Goldman demonstrated with regard to my story, Canaday avoided any of the factual concerns that Zero Hedge presented about the curious disclaimer; in fact his letter, if anything, is such a classic non-denial denial that it really just confirms everyone’s worst suspicions. Most notably, he doesn’t specify what “internal business purposes” the company is talking about, and while he insists it is not front-running, it’s a very thin, curiously worded denial.
That a company as rich and powerful as Goldman would stoop to peering through the web version of a locker-room peephole to make a few extra pennies either front-running random trades or somehow using visitor data “not for their benefit” shows how completely and utterly morally absent this company is. There is not an ill-gotten dollar they will not chase, no matter how small or insignificant the sums might be.
Word should be spread about this and anyone who used the Goldman 360 portral for trading should seriously investigate this situation, as it is entirely possible you’ve been ripped off — legally, perhaps, although how much “legality” a disclaimer like that can confer is a serious question in my mind.
More to the point, the fact that Goldman is getting enough public pressure that it feels it has to respond to these queries shows that the company is reeling. And the fact that their public statements have been so hilariously transparent and clumsy shows that they’re rattled and don’t know how to handle this kind of heat, which they’re not used to getting. Kudos to Zero Hedge for applying the pressure; readers who want to see Marla Singer’s very funny response to Canaday should read here.