Warren Buffett may understand the complex derivative at the heart of the fraud suit against Goldman Sachs Group 'better than most,' as he put it this past weekend. But I'm not sure he understands the securities laws or the legal definition of fraud.

如巴菲特(Warren Buffett)上周末所说,他或许"比大多数人更了解"高盛集团(Goldman Sachs Group)欺诈案中的合成衍生品。但我不知道他是否了解证券法或欺诈的法律定义。

Mr. Buffett mounted a vigorous defense of Goldman, the embattled firm in which he is a major investor, arguing that the identity of the investor betting against the collateralized debt obligation -- hedge-fund manager John Paulson -- would have been irrelevant to the investor betting on the underlying subprime mortgages. 'For the life of me, I don't see whether it makes any difference,' Mr. Buffett said at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting. This point has been echoed by many of Goldman's defenders, who note that the firm has no duty to disclose the identity of counterparties to trades in which the firm stands in the middle.

作为高盛公司主要投资者之一,巴菲特对高盛公司进行了有力的辩护,声称对做多产品中的次贷的投资者而言,做空债务抵押债券的投资者(即对冲基金经理鲍尔森(John Paulson)) 的身份无关紧要。他在伯克希尔哈撒韦公司(Berkshire Hathaway Inc.)的年会上说,无论如何,我看不出这有什么分别。这一观点受到许多高盛公司拥护者的附和。他们指出在高盛参与的这桩交易中,这家公司没有义务披露各种交易者的身份。

But the argument is a straw horse. The Securities and Exchange Commission didn't file a fraud case because Goldman failed to disclose Mr. Paulson's identity to potential counterparties. As the SEC itself said, 'Goldman Sachs failed to disclose to investors vital information about the CDO, in particular the role that a major hedge fund played in the portfolio selection process and the fact that the hedge fund had taken a short position against the CDO.' The essence of the alleged fraud is that Goldman let the short seller choose some of the underlying subprime mortgages, failed to disclose that, and instead promoted the idea that an independent third party chose those securities. This is the material fact at the heart of the SEC's case. (Berkshire Hathaway didn't return calls seeking comment.)

但这一观点有待商榷。美国证券交易委员会(Securities and Exchange Commission,简称SEC)并非因高盛公司未向潜在客户披露鲍尔森的身份而起诉它欺诈。正如SEC自己所说,高盛公司未能向投资者披露与债务抵押债券(CDO)有关的重要信息,特别是一支主要的对冲基金在资产组合选择过程中所起的作用,以及这支对冲基金做空这款债务抵押债券的事实。欺诈指控的本质是高盛公司让这个卖空者挑选了产品中的部分次贷,并且非但不披露这一事实,反而宣传称是一个独立的第三方挑选了这些证券。这是SEC起诉中的重要核心事实。(伯克希尔哈撒韦公司未回复置评要求。)

With the Kentucky Derby in mind, let's consider a horse-racing analogy. There are just two horses and two bettors. The promoter offers you the opportunity to bet on one horse. Someone else is betting on the other. He doesn't tell you that the other bettor chose the two horses in the race, and picked one horse with no chance of winning. Instead, he says the horses were picked by an independent racing federation. You bet and lose. Would you feel that was fair?


I doubt it. Perhaps this is why most people seem to intuitively understand the SEC's case, unlikesupposed experts like Mr. Buffett and others with a vested interest in seeing the SEC fail.


Goldman maintains the SEC's allegations are wrong. The firm deserves and is entitled to a fair hearing, unlike the show trial it endured at the hands of Congress last week. Why didn't the subcommittee call representatives of ACA Capital Management and German bank IKB, the alleged victims on the other side of Mr. Paulson's bet? As the purported victims in this fraud, how do they feel victimized? Or are they just sore losers?

高盛公司坚称SEC的指控是错误的。这家公司应当得到且有权得到一次公正的听证会,而不是类似上周在国会进行的那种作秀式的"公审"。为什么这个参议院的委员会没有邀请指控中的受害者ACA Capital Management公司和德国银行IKB的代表参加听证会?作为欺诈案中所谓的受害者,他们认为受到了何种伤害?或者他们只是痛苦的失败者?

Compounding the uncertainty is The Wall Street Journal's disclosure last week that Goldman is under criminalinvestigation. In a sense, this development shouldn't be a surprise: All fraud charges in the SEC's arsenal have criminal counterparts. Whether criminal charges ultimatelyemerge is usually a function of intent to defraud and whether the charges can be proved to the far higher criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.


It is unlikely that the allegations in the SEC's civil case would be the focus of the Justice Department's inquiry. Ordinarily, the SEC defers to the Justice Department and lets criminal matters be resolved first. That suggests that something else is under scrutiny.


So the Justice inquiry takes the affair to another level. Criminal charges would be life-threatening, which is probably why Goldman shares dropped so sharply on the news last week. As the unfortunate example of accounting firm Arthur Andersen illustrates, even a highly respected institution can't survive the filing of criminal charges by the U.S. government. Few seem to remember that Arthur Andersen's conviction was ultimately overturned on appeal. By then the firm was defunct.

因此,司法部的调查把此事带到了另一个层面。刑事指控将危及高盛公司的存亡,或许这就是高盛公司的股票上周跌幅如此巨大的原因所在。安达信会计公司(Arthur Andersen)的不幸案例显示,一旦受到美国政府的刑事指控,即使受人高度敬重的机构也难以存活。看来极少有人记得安达信会计公司通过上诉推翻了原先的有罪判决。那时这家公司已经名存实亡。

Arthur Andersen made the mistake of outright defiance, which is why I've counseled Goldman to get all the facts out as soon as possible.


Plenty of questions in this case remain unanswered, which is why it is risky for Mr. Buffett to get too far out on the Goldman limb before the facts are known. So far he hasn't said he is putting his money where his mouth is by increasing his stake in Goldman. Until more facts are known and some of the legal uncertainties are resolved, potentialinvestors should recognize that buying Goldman shares is like the derivative transaction at the heart of the SEC case: a speculative bet.


James B. Stewart
  • complex [´kɔmpleks] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.复杂的 n.综合企业 (初中英语单词)
  • obligation [,ɔbli´geiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.义务;职责;合约 (初中英语单词)
  • manager [´mænidʒə] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.经理;管理人;干事 (初中英语单词)
  • annual [´ænjuəl] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.每年的 n.年刊 (初中英语单词)
  • argument [´ɑ:gjumənt] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.辩论;争论;论证 (初中英语单词)
  • unlike [,ʌn´laik] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.不同的 prep.不象... (初中英语单词)
  • supposed [sə´pəuzd] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.想象的;假定的 (初中英语单词)
  • management [´mænidʒmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.管理;处理;经营 (初中英语单词)
  • criminal [´kriminəl] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.犯罪的 n.罪犯 (初中英语单词)
  • investigation [in,vesti´geiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.调查(研究) (初中英语单词)
  • emerge [i´mə:dʒ] 移动到这儿单词发声 vi.出现;显露;暴露 (初中英语单词)
  • function [´fʌŋkʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.机能;职责 vi.活动 (初中英语单词)
  • intent [in´tent] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.专心致志的 n.意图 (初中英语单词)
  • reasonable [´rizənəbəl] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.合理的;有理智的 (初中英语单词)
  • inquiry [in´kwaiəri] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.询问;质询;调查 (初中英语单词)
  • sharply [´ʃɑ:pli] 移动到这儿单词发声 ad.锋利地;剧烈地 (初中英语单词)
  • unfortunate [ʌn´fɔ:tʃunit] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.不幸的,运气差的 (初中英语单词)
  • institution [,insti´tju:ʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.建立;制定;制度 (初中英语单词)
  • survive [sə´vaiv] 移动到这儿单词发声 vt.幸存;残存 (初中英语单词)
  • conviction [kən´vikʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.定罪;确信,信服 (初中英语单词)
  • vigorous [´vigərəs] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.精力旺盛的;健壮的 (高中英语单词)
  • disclose [dis´kləuz] 移动到这儿单词发声 vt.揭露;透露;泄露 (高中英语单词)
  • commission [kə´miʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.委任(状) vt.委任 (高中英语单词)
  • potential [pə´tenʃəl] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.&a.潜在的;可能的 (高中英语单词)
  • selection [si´lekʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.选择;选拔;精选物 (高中英语单词)
  • seller [´selə] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.销售者;行销货 (高中英语单词)
  • kentucky [kən´tʌki] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.肯塔基 (高中英语单词)
  • federation [,fedə´reiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.联邦,联盟,同盟 (高中英语单词)
  • seeing [si:iŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声 see的现在分词 n.视觉 (高中英语单词)
  • hearing [´hiəriŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.听力;听证会;审讯 (高中英语单词)
  • ordinarily [´ɔ:dinərili] 移动到这儿单词发声 ad.平常地;普通地 (高中英语单词)
  • appeal [ə´pi:l] 移动到这儿单词发声 vi.&n.请求;呼吁;上诉 (高中英语单词)
  • defiance [di´faiəns] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.蔑视,挑衅;反抗 (高中英语单词)
  • warren [´wɔrən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.养兔场;大杂院 (英语四级单词)
  • weekend [´wi:kend, ,wi:k´end] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.周末休假 (英语四级单词)
  • definition [,defi´niʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.限定;定义;明确 (英语四级单词)
  • essence [´esəns] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.本质;要素;精华 (英语四级单词)
  • winning [´winiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.&a.胜利(的) (英语四级单词)
  • uncertainty [ʌn´sə:tənti] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.不可靠;不确定的事 (英语四级单词)
  • ultimately [´ʌltimitli] 移动到这儿单词发声 ad.最后,最终 (英语四级单词)
  • resolved [ri´zɔlvd] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.决心的;坚定的 (英语四级单词)
  • investor [in´vestə] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.投资者 (英语六级单词)
  • identity [ai´dentiti] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.身份;同一性;一致 (英语六级单词)
  • underlying [,ʌndə´laiiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.基础的;下层的 (英语六级单词)
  • analogy [ə´nælədʒi] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.类似;类推;比拟 (英语六级单词)
  • promoter [prə´məutə] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.促进者;创办人 (英语六级单词)
  • arsenal [´ɑ:sənəl] 移动到这儿单词发声 n.兵工厂;军械库 (英语六级单词)
  • unlikely [ʌn´laikli] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.不像的;未必可能的 (英语六级单词)
  • speculative [´spekjulətiv] 移动到这儿单词发声 a.臆测的;投机的 (英语六级单词)