Goldman Sachs (GS) is going to pay the U.S. taxpayer–hey, that’s you and me–$1.1 billion for the use of the $10 billion last October when Wall Street looked headed for a meltdown. The $1.1 billion will buy back warrants that the government took as part of the initial investment. (Taxpayers have also collected $318 million in preferred dividends.)
The $1.1 billion on our $25 billion investment comes to an annualized return of 23%. (The annualized return is higher than the simple return of roughly 11% because taxpayers got their $1.1 billion in less than a year’s time.)
Now, I can think of a lot of investments where I’d be more than happy with a 23% annualized return. My money market account. My kids’ college savings accounts. Even Jubak’s Picks.
But in this particular case? It’s just not enough.
Oh, the problem isn’t just that while taxpayers were earning their $1.1 billion, Goldman Sachs stock was climbing 42%. (And since that’s just from October to July, the annualized return would be much higher.)
Or just that Goldman Sachs has announced that it has set aside $11.4 billion in the first six months of the year to pay employee bonuses.
And, Black, Scholes, and Merton know, the $1.1 billion price tag is a whole lot closer to true value as calculated by the Black-Scholes and Merton option pricing models–at 98%–than some of the deals the brainiacs at the U.S. Treasury have struck. US Bancorp, for example, paid less than 60% of the warrants’ value according to these financial models.
It’s just that $1.1 billion isn’t enough to change Wall Street behavior. It’s a slap on the wrist and a light one at that. It’s just the cost of doing business. If we want to make the chance that Wall Street will think seriously about risk the next time it comes up with a new financial product, we’ve got to make the cost of getting it wrong bigger than that.
Put this in your scales: On the one side, the meltdown of global financial markets and the Great Recession, and on the other $1.1 billion out of Goldman’s profits.
Seem about right to you?