Creative Accounting Could Shave As Much As $1 Billion Off Goldman's $5 Billion Settlement for Creative Accounting
Yesterday, state and federal officials announced a $5.1 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs, resolving accusations that the bank behaved irresponsibly in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. But, the New York Times reports, the deal’s fine print reveals that number may ultimately be much lower.
“They appear to have grossly inflated the settlement amount for P.R. purposes to mislead the public, while in the fine print, enabling Goldman Sachs to pay 50 to 75 percent less,” Better Markets founder Dennis Kelleher told the Times. “The problem all along, with all of these settlements—and this one highlights it even more—is that they are carefully crafted more to conceal than reveal to the American public what really happened here—and what the so-called penalty is.”
Taking into account various credits and tax benefits embedded in the deal Goldman could pay as much as $1 billion less than the $5.1 billion announced yesterday. The bank, for example, will receive such a considerable credit for each dollar it spends on affordable housing that it will likely only need to pay 30 percent of the $240 million ostensibly mandated by the deal. From the Times:
On the broadest level, any money that Goldman spends on consumer relief will be deductible from its corporate tax bill. If Goldman spends $2.5 billion on consumer relief, and pays the maximum United States corporate tax rate of 35 percent, it could, in theory, reap $875 million in tax savings.
But Goldman could easily pay less than $2.5 billion in consumer relief because of the sections of the settlement that give it extra credit for certain types of activity.
For every $1 that the bank spends on affordable housing developments, the bank will get a $3.25 credit toward the $240 million, with the possibility of getting 15 percent more credit if it pays early.
Eric T. Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, announced that Goldman would pay $280 million for community reinvestment and neighborhood stabilization in New York. But an annex to the agreement with New York explains that Goldman will get $2 of credit for every dollar it spends in this area, meaning that it will ultimately have to pay only $140 million to meet the terms of the deal.
“We are pleased to put these legacy matters behind us,” Goldman said in a statement yesterday. No wonder!