At a panel yesterday in Davos, Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, perhaps testing out a few new jokes he's hoping to use at the Laugh Factory's open mic night next week, made several interesting statements. The first was his reason for why banks shouldn't be subject to greater regulation.
Mr. Cohn warned that greater regulation of banks would push risky activities into the “shadow banking sector” which he said was “less regulated” and “opaque."
Mind you, we have no reason to assume Gary was saying any of this out of self-interest. He'll have you know Goldman Sachs LOVES regulation. The more the better. He's just doesn't want Goldman and the other banks to be selfish and take more than they need when there are others who could really benefit from increased supervision, like the "unregulated" businesses that apparently caused the last financial crisis and might cause another, if we're not careful.
“What I most worry about,” said Mr Cohn, “is that in the next cycle, as the regulatory pendulum swings, we are going to have to use taxpayer money to bail out unregulated businesses that, unlike the banks in the last crisis, may not be able to repay them.”
“The most recent financial crisis was caused by institutions that didn’t know how to adequately manage risk and were overleveraged. And I worry that if there is another crisis, it will be because the same institutions have failed to learn from the mistakes of the past,” he added.
Unfortunately, some people were less than amused, like the hedge fund managers who didn't like what Cohn was driving at.
One large hedge fund – a client of Goldman – said Mr Cohn’s comments were “ill-judged and ill-informed”. Another accused Mr Cohn of behaving “cynically” to try to distract regulatory attention. “Until 18 months ago, Goldman Sachs was the biggest hedge fund in the world,” this person said, referring to the bank’s sizeable proprietary trading activities, which allowed the bank to speculate with its own capital. “These statements are just false. Hedge funds are regulated. We didn’t cause the financial crisis. We didn’t take bail-out money,” Richard Baker, the president and chief executive of the Managed Funds Association, the industry’s main trade association, told the Financial Times.