Audit Notes: Bloomberg Misses, Indiviglio Hits, Shadow Banking

Bloomberg puts a strangely positive spin on a Goldman Sachs story, and Felix Salmon calls them out on it. Here’s Bloomberg’s lede:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc., accused by the U.S. government of defrauding investors, is generating better returns for companies and buyers of initial public offerings than any other Wall Street firm.

American companies that used New York-based Goldman Sachs as the lead underwriter for initial sales got the highest prices for their shares in the first half of 2010, selling at an average 1.4 percent discount to their offering range, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Buyers were rewarded with an average first-day advance of 9.6 percent, the biggest this year.

But, as Salmon says:

And the story that Tsang didn’t write — but could have written just as easily, given exactly the same data — is the story of Goldman systematically lowballing IPO price ranges, and cheating its corporate clients out of millions of dollars in IPO proceeds, giving them instead to flippers…

In other words, a private company pays Goldman lots of money to take it public at the right price. Goldman (an Audit funder) prices the IPO, but if shares go up 10 percent on the first day, the company has missed out on that gain. It has effectively given that money to whomever Goldman let in to buy shares of the IPO (hint: not you and me).

How Bloomberg spins companies selling shares too cheaply as a success is beyond me.

— The best blog posts are often the shortest blog posts. Daniel Indiviglio shows how to do it with a very good one over at The Atlantic that contains a chart that “Screams, ‘Extend Unemployment Benefits!’”

It shows the number of unemployed going sky high while the number of job openings plummets. There’s about one job opening for every five unemployed person people out there.

This chart shows a serious problem. That giant gap consists of Americans who are unemployed, and couldn’t get a job even if they wanted to. This emphasizes the need for Congress to extend unemployment benefits. It’s pretty clear that millions of Americans remain unemployed because the jobs aren’t there — not becuase they aren’t trying hard enough to find them. In fact, it’s not even close.


— Shadow banking has gotten far too little attention in the financial-reform debate and the press hasn’t done much to put it on the front burner. It may be too little, too late now, but The Economist looks at the scope of the system, via a new Fed paper.

the volume of credit intermediated by the shadow banking system is larger than that of the regular banks. Prior to the crisis, shadow banks had liabilities of $20 trillion compared with $11 trillion for regular banks. Today, the figures are $16 and $13 trillion, respectively.

The second finding concerns the fragility of this system. The subprime crisis may have started the fall, but the financial crisis was precipitated by a run on shadow banks.

And the “newspaper” calls for an FDIC-style deposit insurance and corresponding regulation:

But any permanent guarantee would come at the cost of added regulation. The authors propose regulating financial institutions based on function rather than form. This makes sense. Banks and shadow banks essentially perform the same function — financial intermediation. Regulation by function would remove the need for shadow banks that thrive on regulatory arbitrage, and focus on institutions that add economic value.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.