Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Goldman Sachs's Lloyd Blankfein & Tim Liessner: Which is the greater sin, writing a reference for employment at a competitor ,or knowingly buying sovereigns as junk?

by Ganesh Sahathevan
The WSJ has reported that Tim Leissner quit Goldman Sachs after he was ordered to explain an apparent breach of company policy, ie sending "an unauthorized reference letter on behalf of an individual to another financial firm in 2015."

Compare this Mr Leissner's record breaking, reality defying,1 MDB bond deal, where Goldman put together a scheme where it bought unrated bonds from 1 MDB, got them rated as sovereigns ,which they were, and then sold them at a massive profit. Bloomberg provides a summary:

Unrated Bonds

1MDB’s bonds were unrated when Goldman bought them and got an A- grade, the same as on sovereign debt, from Standard & Poor’s on April 12. The sale matched a Petroliam Nasional Bhd. deal in 2009 as the largest by a Malaysian company in the international market, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It made Goldman the second-biggest underwriter of Malaysian dollar bonds after Citigroup Inc., with 18.5 percent of the market, the data show.

Part of the $500 million came from Goldman buying the notes at a discount to face value before marking them up to sell to investors, said the person familiar with the deal.

Goldman purchased the bonds for 91 cents on the dollar, according to the person. At that price, the notes yielded about 5.6 percent, or 364 basis points more than Treasuries and 261 basis points more than the rate on Malaysia’s sovereign Islamic dollar debt due July 2021. Quasi-sovereign bonds due in seven to 10 years yielded 2.3 percent on average, according to data compiled by Bank of America Corp.

While it is true that sharp investment bankers like Mr Leissner are very good at picking up mispriced assets, this was clearly a case where all parties involved agreed to pretend that the Rolls Royce was a very ordinary Proton.One would think that this ,more than some "unauthorized reference letter on behalf of an individual to another financial firm " would be of greater concern, but not it seems at Goldman Sachs.It is obvious that Goldman is finding any excuse it can to break any nexus between its partners and CEO and chairman, Lloyd Blankfein.


Goldman Adviser to 1MDB, Tim Leissner, Quit After Alleged Bank-Policy Violations

Leissner was firm’s point man with Malaysian state fund

Tim Leissner, Goldman Sachs’s top banker to 1MDB, and his wife Kimora Lee SimmonsTim Leissner, Goldman Sachs’s top banker to 1MDB, and his wife Kimora Lee Simmons
By JUSTIN BAER and KEN BROWN Updated March 8, 2016 4:09 a.m.                           The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partner who handled deals for a controversial Malaysian government investment fund was suspended and later quit after bank investigators found he allegedly violated company policies, said a person familiar with the matter.Goldman placed Tim Leissner, the firm’s Southeast Asia chairman, on leave after a review of his email found that he had allegedly sent an unauthorized reference letter on behalf of an individual to another financial firm in 2015, the person said.The letter also included statements that Goldman believes to be inaccurate, the person said. Mr. Leissner was placed on leave in January and he resigned a day later, several people said. His last day was Feb. 23, the people said.The letter allegedly sent by Mr. Leissner wasn’t linked to business that Goldman did for the Malaysian fund, and the firm has found nothing wrong with his dealings with the fund, the people said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Leissner has been subpoenaedby U.S. investigators probing possible wrongdoing at the fund, a person familiar with the matter said. News of the subpoena was first reported by Bloomberg News.
Mr. Leissner was Goldman’s top banker to 1Malaysia Development Bhd., a Malaysian government-investment fund now engulfed in scandal over its alleged connection to transfers of funds into the personal accounts of the Asian country’s prime minister. As authorities​ in five countries probed the fund, Goldman quietly began its own inquiry into Mr. Leissner’s role, the people said.
1MDB didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The email review also came as Goldman resigned from a potentially lucrative mining deal in Indonesia being led by Mr. Leissner because of the involvement of someone in the deal who the bank believed could hurt the firm’s reputation, said one person familiar with the matter. Bank investigators found that Mr. Leissner had offered an internship to a child of the individual, the person said.
The decision to back out of the project irritated Mr. Leissner, who argued that Goldman was scrutinizing his deals more heavily because of his involvement in the 1MDB controversy, people familiar with the matter said. He was also frustrated with Goldman for failing to support his request to move to Los Angeles. He is married to fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons, who is based there.
The departure of its star banker in the region and the resignation from the mining deal are blows to Goldman’s lucrative business in Southeast Asia, which Mr. Leissner built in over a decade on the ground.
Goldman had been helping a group of investors secure financing in their potential bid for the controlling stake of an Indonesian copper-mining operation when the firm’s executives grew concerned about an adviser to one member of the group. The person’s name appeared on many emails involving the deal, which were seen by Goldman investigators looking at Mr. Leissner’s activities, people familiar with the matter said.
The person involved in the deal also asked Mr. Leissner if Goldman could hire his child as an intern, and Mr. Leissner agreed, a person familiar with the matter said.
The presence of the person, whose identity couldn’t be learned, caused Goldman to pull out of the deal.
The deal, which included financing and hedging, would have generated more than $50 million in revenue for the bank, making it one of the biggest transactions in the region since three big bond offerings by the Malaysian fund in 2012 and 2013, which generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for Goldman.
The bidders hired Credit Suisse Group AG after Goldman withdrew, the people said. The deal is still being negotiated. A spokesman for Newmont Mining Corp., the U.S. company that controls the copper-mining operations, declined to comment.
At a Feb. 29 mining conference in Florida, Newmont Chief Executive Gary Goldberg said that “Newmont and our partner, Sumitomo, are in discussions with certain interested parties” over the potential sale of the mine.
“But to date,” he added, “none have secured fully committed financing or deal terms.” Newmont said the mine, called Batu Hijau, is located on the island of Sumbawa​and is one of the world’s biggest copper mines. It is partially owned by the government.
Mr. Leissner arrived in Southeast Asia when it was considered by many to be a financial backwater and helped the bank forge key relationships in business and government. When Malaysia established 1MDB in 2009 to spur economic development, Mr. Leissner became a key adviser to the fund.
The Wall Street Journal reported this month that global investigators believe $1 billion that originated with 1MDB was transferred to personal accounts of Najib Razak,Malaysia’s prime minister. In October, the Journal reported that U.S. investigators had begun to examine Goldman’s dealings with the fund.
Investigators in two of the countries probing 1MDB, while agreeing most of the money transferred to Mr. Najib’s account ultimately was returned, believe the money originated with 1MDB, according to people familiar with the probes.
Mr. Najib has denied wrongdoing or taking any money for personal gain. The 1MDB fund said in a statement on Feb. 19 that it “has not paid any funds to the personal accounts of the Prime Minister.” Malaysia’s attorney general said the money that went into Mr. Najib’s account was a legal donation from a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, and most was returned. The attorney general said there was nothing improper and it was time to stop scrutinizing the deposits, a notion echoed by Mr. Najib.
Mr. Leissner’s departure from Goldman despite his commercial success underlines Wall Street’s heightened concerns over the risks posed by employees operating far from the watchful gaze of compliance officers and lawyers back at their headquarters. Those fears have deepened with each regulatory probe into allegations of money laundering, corruption and improper ties to government employees or their children.
Offering internships to relatives of clients or potential clients had been common business practice for big banks in Asia. But the practice has some under scrutiny for possible violations of U.S. bribery laws and Goldman is among several international banks being investigated for hiring relatives of top Chinese government officials, according to regulatory filings. Goldman officials have declined to comment on the probes.
​Goldman is expected to disclose some details on Mr. Leissner’s departure in his file with the U.S. securities industry’s self-regulating arm, Finra, people familiar with the matter said.
One person familiar with the matter said Mr. Leissner left Goldman quietly in January and by last month had ceased communicating with some of his closest colleagues in Asia.
Goldman’s investment-banking executives didn’t note his resignation with a memorandum to their employees, a step normally taken with partners who leave the firm in good standing, according to a person familiar with the matter.
​After leaving Goldman, Mr. Leissner took on an advisory role with Wildcat Capital Management, the family office of private-equity giant David Bonderman. Mr. Leissner is close with executives in Asia at TPG Capital, the firm founded by Mr. Bonderman. A person familiar with the matter said Mr. Leissner was no longer an adviser to his firm. It is unclear why he ended his relationship with the family office.
—Tom Wright contributed to this article.
Write to Justin Baer at justin.baer@wsj.com and Ken Brown at ken.brown@wsj.com

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