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Goldman Sachs and the politics of financial reform

Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep so I ended up mulling over the fraud case against Goldman Sachs (GS) for about 3 hours. Here’s my (totally uneducated) take:

Bottom line, this case against GS is not a gamble by the government. The administration wants financial reform much more than they want to “get” GS, but because midterm elections are around the corner and Democrats are already expected to lose a fair number of Congressional seats, the administration really can’t afford to have Republicans running around telling people that financial reform is Maoism in disguise (or in the best interest of the banks…with the Republicans still auditioning opposition strategies, it’s like amateur hour on the Hill). So. What is to be done? How do you pass real financial reform in this political climate without more than a mock brawl? Apparently if you’re particularly savvy, you bring a charge against the most loathed bank on Wall Street based on a disclosure issue that may not actually be technically illegal, but that very clearly sounds like something that should be. The ambiguity of the law is the SEC/administration’s ace in the hole. Either GS settles or loses and financial reform happens because the issue is very clearly illustrated for the public by one great example, or GS wins and financial reform happens because the entire country is incensed that whatever GS did isn’t illegal. Either way, financial reform passes.

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