Monday, February 22, 2010

Goldman officially responds to criticism that it helped Greece "hide" debt (GS)

Over the last few weeks, the conspiracy-theorists have been targeting Goldman Sachs over a series of interest rate swaps that had the effect of making Greece's debt situation look rosier than it was in the earlier part of this decade.


From BusinessWeek on Feb16th:



Legal ‘At the Time’
Goldman Sachs, Wall Street’s most profitable securities firm, is being criticized by European politicians including Germany’s ruling Christian Democrats, who have questioned whether the firm helped Greece hide its deficit to comply with the currency’s membership criteria. Greece is also being faulted by fellow euro-region countries for failing to disclose the swaps to EU regulators.
The swaps used by Greece to manage debt were “at the time legal,” Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said on Feb. 15. The government doesn’t use the swaps now, he said.
Eurostat, the EU’s statistics office, this week ordered Greece to hand over information on the swaps transactions by the end of this week in an investigation that may extend to other EU countries.
Goldman Sachs earned about 735 million euros ($1 billion) underwriting Greek government bonds since 2002, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Goldman Sachs underwrote 10 bond sales. Prospectuses for six of them, obtained by Bloomberg, contain no mention of the swaps. The other four couldn’t be obtained.



Goldman officially responded yesterday.  While the transactions may have made Greece's deficit numbers a bit cloudy, Goldman claims that even without the swaps, the deficit picture would not have changed very much:


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