You know the official version of how god's bank, aka Goldman, makes money: in the traditional, and not at all mysterious god's way, as a pureplay investment bank, which allocates capital, provides financing, advisory services, etc. Despite what Mr. Blankfein would want you to believe, that's only half the story. This two part PBS Series analyzes the other side of the equation. Who should know the truth better than former Goldmanite, Nomi Prins. "Classical investment banking function is a small portion of their revenues, I think it is about 10% or so. So if he is doing god's work, he is only doing it 10% capacity. The rest is prop trading." But wait, according to Goldman prop trading accounts for only 10% of revenue. Why the discrepancy? Simple - because that 80% "vacuum" is really just the client-facing prop/flow fixed income hybrid model, which after the disappearance of all big fixed income trading houses (Bear, Lehman and soon, RBS) Goldman has now monopolized. Being able to determine how big or small the bid/offer spreads on anything from cash bonds, to CDS to various non-CDS OTC derivatives should be, courtesy of having the largest fixed income inventory in the world at any one time, to which it can add or from which it can sell, makes Goldman not so much a pure play prop trader, as a market monopoly, which has to be dismembered as it now is the market (just like the Fed is the market in MBS and Agency paper) when it comes to all non-Fed dominated Fixed Income and OTC derivative products. This is, and always has been, an FTC issue: remember Ma Bell?
That Goldman can piggy back on its unparalleled "market facing" perspective and allow its prop traders to legally trade ahead of major clients (thank you 4 point font disclosure footnotes) is just the cherry on top. Volcker is on the right path. But the true solution of the problem is to finally get Christine Varney's DOJ troops on the matter and to formally declare Goldman Sachs a monopoly power which threatens and prevents the emergence of true competition in the flow/prop trading arena. For an indication of Goldman's unparalleled monopolist capacity, look no further than its ever greater record trading profits.
Part One of PBS Series below (Part Two follows tomorrow).