Earlier, when observing the US AG disclosure of a civil and criminal investigation into BP plc, we noted in passing that BP's former Chairman, Peter Sutherland, who left the firm is a Chairman of Goldman Sachs International. Mr. Sutherland holds some other interesting titles, including a position on the Trilateral Commission, he was a chairman of the London School of Economics in 2008, he is a UN special representative for migration and development; he was the founding director-general of the World Trade Organisation, he had previously served as director general of GATT since July 1993 and was instrumental in concluding the Uruguay GATT Round Negotiations. Needless to say, we focused on the Goldman relationship. When digging deeper, we uncovered some amusing correlations, most notably between the BP plc sellside ratings by Goldman BP analyst Michelle della Vigna and the Goldman Sachs Asset Management holdings of BP plc. These are summarized on the attached chart.
And in case this is not enough, another way to visualize Goldman's rating history, together with price targets on BP is presented below, straight from GS itself:
As the first chart above demonstrates, there is an "odd" correlation between Goldman's sellside sentiment on the stock, and the amount of stock held by Goldman's asset management arm, especially evident in the days between December 31, 2009 and March 31, 2010, when despite a recent Buy rating attached to the firm, GSAM sold off more than 40% of its stake in the name. On December 31, Goldman held 71 million BP shares, and three months later this number went down 42.5 million. Another oddity is that back in 2008, when GS had the stock at Neutral, GSAM doubled its stake in the firm from 28.8 million shares to 57.3 million days before Ms. della Vigna raised the stock to a Buy, albeit if only for just over a month. Oddly enough, in the half year period when Goldman was telling its clients to Sell the stock, between 3/31/2009 and 10/28/2009, GSAM holdings declined by a whopping -3.9%.
Yet while the fact that GSAM did not follow the recommendations of its very own analyst is not peculiar. We have long pointed out that Goldman does precisely the opposite of what it advises its "clients" to do. What is slightly more troubling is the combination of Mr. Sutherland's departure from BP effective January 1, the release of his fiduciary obligations to BP shareholders, the upgrade of BP by Goldman from Neutral to Buy 4 days before Sutherland's full, and non-conflicted return to the GSI Chairmanship, and last but not least, the dumping of 28 million BP shares by GSAM in the next three months, an act which has saved the asset manager roughly GBP50 million.
We are confident that all of the above is purely coincidental.