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Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Goldman Sachs Drops a Bombshell on Wall Street

Wall St. on Parade

The caribou have vanished on Wall Street and the wolves are in a feeding frenzy against each other. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Goldman Sachs is considering shuttering its Sigma X dark pool, a business that brought in $7.17 billion from equity trading in 2013, before accounting charges.

There are only three reasons that a Wall Street mega bank shutters a $7 billion business instead of selling it: it’s crazy; its regulators told it to shutter it; there’s more bad news ahead about this business and the firm is trying to get out in front of the fallout. We know Goldman Sachs is only crazy like a fox, so that leaves options two and three.

On March 13, Bloomberg News reported that Goldman Sachs sent refund checks to some of its customers for trades that had occurred in August 2011 where it had failed to execute trades at the National Best Bid and Offer (NBBO), a requirement under U.S. securities laws. Whether that is happening routinely within dark pools is anyone’s guess since…well, they’re dark…and the Securities and Exchange Commission still doesn’t have a consolidated audit mechanism able to keep up with the market it is charged with overseeing.

What triggered this benevolent refund action on the part of Goldman Sachs has yet to be explained. Who discovered the errors is left unanswered as is why we are just learning about something that occurred in 2011 three years later.

There is also the major Goldman snafu that disrupted markets last summer. On August 20, 2013, Goldman sent thousands of erroneous trading orders for options into the exchanges, wildly moving prices in the opening minutes of trading. The problem was blamed on a computer systems upgrade gone awry. Most of the trades were cancelled by the exchanges involved but the matter evoked outrage at the top of the firm since it put Goldman’s customers on the other sides of those trades at risk and could have resulted in big trading losses and/or lawsuits to Goldman and alienation of key clients.

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