Blankfein has been wrestling with GSAM for years.
The Goldman Sachs CEO is struggling
to turn around the firm’s asset
management arm, whose performance
is flagging. Netscape co-founder
Jim Clark voted with his feet.
By riChard teitelbaum
Photograph by Monika Graff/Landov
On Jan.2, Jim Clark, a founder of such technology icons as Netscape Communications
Corp. and Silicon Graphics Inc., was at home in Palm Beach,
Florida, when he got an e-mail from an executive at Goldman Sachs Group
Inc.’s private wealth management division. Goldman was offering Clark a
chance to invest in the closely held social-networking company Facebook
Inc. The deal—through a fund overseen by Goldman Sachs Asset Management—was
being offered to other Goldman investors at the same time. The firm would
levy a 4 percent placement fee on clients, plus a half percent “expense reserve” fee. It
would also require investors to surrender 5 percent of any profits, known as “carried
interest,” according to a Goldman Sachs document.
Clark turned Goldman down. In June 2009, he had angrily yanked most of the
roughly $400 million he had invested with the firm due to what he considered bad advice
and poor performance, including a big hit from GSAM’s Global Alpha hedge fund.
This offer, he says, just irked him further. A few months earlier,
he had purchased a stake in Facebook through another firm for
a lower price, he says, and without the onerous carried interest.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable,” Clark says. “It’s just another
way for them to make money from their clients.”
Clark isn’t the only investor unhappy with Goldman Sachs
Asset Management. GSAM (often pronounced gee-sam) managed
most of the $840 billion in assets Goldman oversaw in
December, a figure that dwarfs the money managed by brandname
firms such as Legg Mason Inc. and Franklin Resources
Inc. Yet the evidence shows that the behemoth inside the
141-year-old investment bank is generating subpar returns for
investors and is a persistent headache for Chairman and Chief
Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein.
The CEO has dispatched a series of lieutenants on missions
to fix the listless asset manager, which last year saw
pension funds in California and Nevada withdraw a
total of more than $900 million because they were unhappy
with its performance and concerned about
turnover in the investment management division’s
ranks. At the same time, GSAM has become increasingly
important to Goldman, as the firm’s trading powerhouse
has idled. Revenue from Goldman’s Fixed
Income, Currency and Commodities (FICC) trading
division dropped 37 percent in 2010 from a year earlier,
and the firm’s investing for its own accounts could
further suffer when new rules, including strict limits
on proprietary trading by banks, kick in.
Goldman declined to make Blankfein or any other
executives available for comment for this story.
In March 2008, Peter Kraus, co-head of the investment
division that oversaw GSAM, resigned after
incentive fees—the 20 percent that hedge and other
funds slice off profits—plunged 81 percent in fiscal
2007 and Global Alpha lost 40 percent, according
to investors. Co-head Ed Forst took over. He was
one of a cadre of Blankfein confidantes known as Lloyd’s
Boys, according to former employees. He left after three
months to take a job at Harvard University, and investment
management became the job of Marc Spilker, a
former co-head of U.S. equities, and Timothy O’Neill, a
former senior strategist. They were the seventh and
eighth Goldman investment heads in eight years.
O’Neill and Spilker didn’t do much better than Kraus.
The division’s 2009 net revenue of $3.97 billion accounted
for about 8.8 percent of Goldman’s total revenue
and was down 12.8 percent from fiscal 2008 as both
management and incentive fees declined. A big chunk of
GSAM’s assets are its separate accounts—pools of
30 BloomBerg markets March 2011
money invested for institutions and wealthy individuals.
EVestment Alliance LLC, an Atlanta-based research firm,
tracks about $300 billion held in the accounts and finds that
Goldman trailed its peers in 73.8 percent of the categories
EVestment looked at during the five years ended on Sept. 30.
Chicago-based financial publisher Morningstar Inc. tracks
Goldman mutual funds and found that the 338 fund share
classes it looks at trailed the average return of their respective
peers in every broad category, including U.S. diversified equity,
foreign stock and taxable bonds, over the 3-, 5- and 10-year periods
ended on Dec. 31.
Yet investors have not only stuck with GSAM; they’ve added
tens of billions of dollars to its assets since 2000. “Given the
golden reputation of Goldman, it’s amazing,” says Anton
Schutz, founder of Rochester, New York–based Mendon Capital
Advisors Corp., an asset management firm that specializes
jim clark pulled $400 million out of Goldman.
JoSh ritchie (Left); JiLL GreenBerG/corBiS
in financial stocks and doesn’t own
Goldman Sachs shares. “What we
thought was investing acumen has
turned out to be a tribute to the
firm’s marketing muscle.”
The sales prowess of the Goldman
franchise lost some of its luster
in the deal for Facebook, run by
26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg.
Goldman had planned to sell as
much as $1.5 billion of the Palo
Alto–based company’s stock to clients
through a GSAM-affiliated
fund known as a special-purpose
vehicle. Instead, Goldman on Jan. 17 halted its offering to U.S.
investors due to the copious press the deal garnered. “Goldman
Sachs concluded that the level of media attention might
not be consistent with the proper completion of a U.S. private
placement under U.S. law,” the firm said. Securities
laws forbid investment firms from advertising such offerings
to the general public. Analyst Josh Bernoff of Forrester
Research Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, expects
a Facebook initial public offering in 2012.
Bundling Facebook shares into a GSAM special-purpose
vehicle might have helped Facebook avoid a U.S. Securities
and Exchange Commission requirement that any company
with more than 499 investors meet SEC financial reporting
requirements. Such moves are a common practice in the venture
Goldman and the funds it manages, including GSAM hedge
fund Goldman Sachs Investment Partners, invested $450
million in Facebook before the bank began recruiting investors.
Digital Sky Technologies,
a Russian investment
firm, bought $50 million.
On Jan. 21, Facebook announced
that Goldman had
completed an over subscribed
offering to its non-
U.S. clients for a fund that
invested $1 billion in Facebook
Class A shares.
Goldman is still dealing
with the fallout from its
last run-in with the SEC.
In April 2010, the commission
filed a civil suit accusing
Goldman of fraud for
selling a mortgage-related
security called Abacus
2007-AC1 to clients
the New York
Times reports that
Goldman is offering
in closely held
founder Jim clark
gets an e-mail that
day inviting him to
zuckerBerg’s Goldman deal faced Sec scrutiny.
that it’s withdrawing
the facebook offer
for U.S. investors.
coverage of the deal
may run afoul of
without disclosing that bearish
hedge fund Paulson & Co. helped
pick some of the securities linked
to it—with the intention of selling
the security short. Goldman settled
the suit in July, agreeing to pay
$550 million, a record for a Wall
Street firm, without admitting or
And Blankfein, 56, still hasn’t
put behind him the criticism over
Goldman’s controversial role in
the collapse of American International
Group Inc. in 2008—particularly
its aggressive collateral calls on the credit-default
swaps it had bought from AIG on subprime-packed mortgage
securities, many of which it underwrote.
In April, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
held an 11-hour hearing on Goldman Sachs’s role
in the financial crisis, grilling Blankfein, Chief Financial
Officer David Viniar and others about Goldman’s business
practices. “Goldman repeatedly put its own interests and
profits ahead of the interests of its clients and our communities,”
said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat
who chaired the subcommittee.
Blankfein told the Levin hearing that as a market maker Goldman
had no obligation to tell clients about Goldman’s own positions
in the securities it was selling. Clients “are buying an
exposure,” Blankfein told the committee. “The thing we are selling
to them is supposed to give them the risk they want.”
Clark was particularly irked by the disclosures surrounding
Abacus. He had met with Paulson & Co. founder John Paulson
in August 2006 and been
impressed by the manager’s
plans to bet against the subprime-mortgage
His Goldman brokers talked
him out of investing with
Paulson, describing him as
a bit player, Clark says.
purchased $1 billion
in facebook shares.
Goldman itself and
firm Digital Sky had
Paulson generated a 590
percent return in his flagship
credit fund in 2007.
“When it came out that
Paulson had the biggest
payday in history, I got angry,”
Clark says. The fact
that Goldman Sachs had
such a close relationship
with Paulson incensed
Clark further. “They just
March 2011 BloomBerg markets 31
butter their own bread and charge huge fees, these jerks,”
Clark says. Goldman spokeswoman Andrea Raphael says the
firm has no comment on Clark’s complaint.
The conflict between what Goldman does for itself versus
what it does for its customers was addressed by Blankfein &
Co. in a 63-page internal document released in mid-January.
The Report of the Business Standards Committee probed a
raft of issues, including conflicts of interest, transparency
and disclosure, as well as the firm’s responsibilities to its clients.
The report recommended the creation of a simplified
balance sheet that would make transparent the division between
the deals it does for its own profit and those it carries
out for its customers. The firm’s operations are now divided
into four reporting segments: investment banking, investing
and lending, investment management and institutional client
services. “It is important to articulate clearly both to our
people and to clients the specific roles we assume in each
case,” Goldman said in the report.
Protecting the firm’s image was a high priority of
the 21-member committee, led by managing director
E. Gerald Corrigan and Goldman Sachs
Asia Chairman J. Michael Evans. “Goldman
Sachs has one reputation,” the report says. “It
can be affected by any number of decisions and
activities across the firm.”
GSAM’s performance puts the firm’s reputation as a savvy
investor under pressure. “The results are, No. 1, surprising
and, No. 2, disappointing,” says Richard
Bove, an analyst at Stamford, Connecticut–
based Rochdale Securities LLC. “First,
Goldman has sold this business as one they
can grow and grow very strongly. Second,
they pride themselves on being able to deliver
results for high-net-worth people.”
The numbers tell the tale. According to
Morningstar, just 44.9 percent of Goldman’s
U.S. diversified stock funds managed
to beat their peer average over the three
years ended on Dec. 31. Just 34.7 percent of
such funds beat their peer average over 5
years and 28.3 percent over 10 years. Only
11.5 percent of Goldman’s foreign stock
funds beat their peer average over 3 years,
6.7 percent over 5 years and zero percent
over 10 years. Similar stories play out in
both the taxable and municipal bond categories.
Morningstar’s calculations were
done on funds holding a total of $59 billion
in assets and exclude money markets. The
32 BloomBerg markets March 2011
funds are sold by brokerages, including Merrill Lynch and
Edward Jones, and by regional banks. “With just a few exceptions,
these funds are chronic underperformers,” Morningstar
mutual fund analyst Karin Anderson says.
Spokeswoman Raphael says the firm’s own research
using Morningstar data shows Goldman mutual funds performing
substantially better in certain categories, though
still trailing their peers.
As for Goldman separate accounts, EVestment looked at
narrower categories—such as U.S. core high-quality fixed income
and Japan small-cap equity—and found Goldman Sachs
trailing more than two-thirds of its rivals over the 3-, 5- and
Missteps large and small have contributed to the poor performance.
The Class A shares of Goldman Sachs Concentrated
International Equity Fund, for example, were dragged
down by a position in Renault SA during the three years
ended on Dec. 31, according to a Morningstar performance
analysis. The stock lost more than half its value, and the fund
trailed its category average by more than two percentage
points for the period. The international fund’s U.S. sibling,
the Goldman Sachs Concentrated Growth Fund, was hurt by
its overweighting in health-care stocks, a Morningstar analysis
concluded, which fell because of concern over the Obama
administration’s health-care law.
Another possible culprit in GSAM’s underperformance is
expenses. Goldman’s diversified U.S. equity funds sport an
asset-weighted average expense ratio of 1.02 percent versus an
average of 0.79 percent for the U.S. diversified mutual fund
Goldman’s assets under management have almost tripled since 2000. Asset
management contributes more to net revenue than the firm’s investment bank.
IN BILLIONS *
2010 REVENUE, IN BILLIONS
’00 ’05 ’10
*Figures for 2000 and 2005 are as of Nov. 30; for 2010, as of Dec. 31. Percentages add up to more than 100 because of rounding.
universe as a whole. Bove says
GSAM may also be putting an
undue emphasis on marketing.
“It could be that the focus
of an asset manager within a
brokerage is more sales oriented
than performance oriented,”
So why do investors keep
their accounts at the New
York firm? The prestige of
the Goldman Sachs name is
a big factor. “A lot of wealthy
clients like to say, ‘I have
my account at Goldman,
blah, blah, blah,’” says Michelle
Clayman, founder of
New Amsterdam Partners
LLC, an investment manager that owned 267,000 Goldman
shares as of mid-January.
Even GSAM’s once-vaunted hedge funds have lost their
sizzle. Hedge-fund assets totaled $19.5 billion as of September,
making Goldman the 16th-largest hedge-fund firm, according
to bloomberG marKetS’ annual ranking of hedge funds. (See
“Dr. Brownstein’s Winning Formula,” February 2010.) That
amount was down 34 percent from Goldman’s year-end peak
of $29.5 billion in 2006, when GSAM was the world’s largest
hedge-fund manager. Goldman’s incentive fees—the 20 percent
of profits that hedge funds and some other investment
GSAM’s separate accounts have lagged those of competitors, and incentive fees from
Goldman’s hedge and other funds are down sharply.
PERCENTAGE OF SEPARATE ACCOUNT
CATEGORIES IN WHICH GSAM
TRAILS ITS PEERS
As of Sept. 30
Peter kraus resigned from Goldman in 2008.
’06 ’07 ’08 ’09 ’10
*As of Sept. 30. Full-year incentive fees of $527 million include certain merchant banking gains previously
reported as principal investment. Sources: Company reports, EVestment Alliance
vehicles generate—totaled just $65 million for the first nine
months of 2010. That’s down from a peak of $962 million for
fiscal 2006. In reporting its financial results for year-end 2010,
Goldman added performance payments from funds run by its
merchant banking business, which had been included in trading
division results, to its incentive fee totals. With such payments
included, total incentive fees rose to $527 million for
2010 from $180 million in 2009.
GSAM’s flagship hedge fund today is Goldman Sachs
Investment Partners, or GSIP, an $8.5 billion fund that
uses fundamental research to buy and bet against stocks.
It’s co-headed by Raanan Agus and
Kenneth Eberts, who both moved
to GSAM in 2007 from the firm’s
proprietary trading desk.
GSIP’s performance has been
competitive. The offshore version
lost 18.9 percent in 2008 and gained
24 percent in 2009 net of fees. That
compares with a 19 percent loss for
the HFR Composite Index in 2008
and a 20 percent gain in 2009.
Through October, the GSIP fund
returned 4.6 percent, according to
Bloomberg data, a return too low to
make bloomberG marKetS’ ranking
of the world’s top 100 large
funds. That compares with a 6.8
percent gain in the HFR index.
As for Global Alpha, it now manages
less than $2 billion, according
to an investor, down from a peak of
$11 billion in 2007. The fund, which
March 2011 BloomBerg markets 33
uses trading algorithms and computerized models to buy
and sell everything from Polish zlotys to wheat futures, returned
3 percent in 2008, 30 percent in 2009 and was basically
flat in 2010. In 2007, most quant hedge funds suffered
because their computer models told all of them to buy, or
bet against, the same instruments. As many quant funds
tried to unwind their positions at once, mayhem ensued,
and Global Alpha lost 40 percent.
It’s the strength of Goldman’s larger franchise that helps it
hold on to investors’ money despite GSAM’s performance. On
Jan. 19, Goldman reported $8.35 billion in earnings for 2010,
down 38 percent from 2009 on net revenues of $39.16 billion,
which were down 13 percent. The culprit was a steep fall in client
trading, with FICC trading revenue down 37 percent to
$13.71 billion. Investment management revenues rose 9 percent
to $5.01 billion.
Since 2000, Goldman’s assets under management have
risen at an annualized rate of 11.8 percent—with three years
of decline, in the bear market years of 2002 and 2008 and in
2010. “Goldman is a brand,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch
analyst Guy Moszkowski says. “Brands tend to be able to retain
customers in situations where performance suggests
GSAM clients benefit from Goldman Sachs’s
extensive network of business relations and its
dealmaking, with the Facebook investment just
the latest example. Mendon Capital’s Schutz
says that if investors get early access to the latest
it makes it easier to
stomach poor returns
elsewhere in their portfolios.
“If you get in on the
next Google IPO, you’re
not going to be whining
too much,” he says.
Still, as the Goldman
image has suffered in
Congress and the popular
press, its star power
may be dimming. In July, CFO Viniar, responding to a
question on a conference call, said that the 2010 SEC suit
had had some impact on GSAM’s ability to raise money.
In 2010, assets under management fell 3.6 percent as investors
pulled cash from low-yielding money market and
equity accounts. All told, flows out of asset management
totaled $71 billion in 2010.
In March, the $22.7 billion Nevada Public Employees’
34 BloomBerg markets March 2011
ed forst went from Goldman to harvard and back.
Retirement System fired GSAM because the $600 million it
had invested with the firm was trailing the Morgan Stanley
EAFE index it was supposed to track by an annualized one
percentage point. “We have to take action on performance,”
Investment Officer Ken Lambert said at the time. “That’s
what my members are expecting.” He also cited Goldman
asset management personnel changes.
In June, the $2.8 billion Kern County, California, Employees’
Retirement Association pulled $347 million from two
GSAM accounts. Executive director Anne Holdren cited both
performance and turnover at Goldman as reasons.
Goldman has been working to get money management right
for 80 years. The firm’s
first foray into the field
was in 1928, when it
Nevada’S peNSioN plaN
fired Goldman after it
underperformed its benchmark.
started up a partnership
called Goldman Sachs
Trading Corp., which
invested in the thenbooming
banks, insurers, utilities
and industrial companies.
The trust collapsed
in the 1929 stock market
crash, eventually losing more than 98 percent of its value.
One big loser was comedian Eddie Cantor, who spent
years afterward skewering Goldman Sachs in his vaudeville
act. “They told me to buy the stock for my old age, and it
worked perfectly,” Cantor quipped, according to The Partnership
by Charles Ellis (Penguin Press, 2008). “Within six
months, I felt like a very old man.” Cantor sued Goldman
Sachs for $100 million and, according to the New York
Times, settled for an undisclosed sum in 1936.
Leon Cooperman, Goldman’s longtime research chief,
lobbied for years to expand Goldman’s money management
efforts. When GSAM was created in 1988, he served as its first
CEO, leaving Goldman in 1991 to found hedge fund Omega
Advisors Inc. Asset management remained a small part of
Goldman until the mid-1990s, when Chairman Jon Corzine
and President Henry Paulson decided to build it out after taking
note of the profits being generated in asset management
by rival Wall Street firms.
GSAM set up offices at 32 Old Slip, several blocks away from
the parent firm’s 85 Broad St. headquarters, and formed a separate
culture—academic, collegial, less cutthroat, according to
former employees. In 1994, Corzine and Paulson tapped David
Ford to run GSAM, and in 1996 he was joined as co-head by John
McNulty, a visionary broker in the wealth management department.
It was McNulty’s idea to organize the firm into 10 boutiques,
each with a different investment strategy, independent
of each other and of the front office.
The bankers and traders at 85 Broad and 1 New
York Plaza looked down on the money managers,
say former GSAM employees. “GSAM has always
been the stepchild at Goldman Sachs,” says author
William Cohan, who’s writing a book about
Goldman, scheduled to be published later this
year. “It’s never been as sexy
as investment banking, trading
and private equity.”
The firm had just $52 billion
in assets under management
in 1995. The next year,
Goldman bought CIN Management,
the pension plan of
British Coal Corp., for an undisclosed
amount, to gather
assets and increase its visibility
in Europe. A year later, it
purchased Liberty Investment
Management, a growthoriented
mutual fund firm in
Tampa, Florida. Then it
snapped up Commodities
Corp., the Princeton, New
Jersey–based firm cofounded
by Paul Samuelson, a
Nobel Prize winner and author
of the best-selling college
textbook on economics.
Commodities Corp. had been
36 BloomBerg markets March 2011
gsam now resides at Goldman’s new headquarters.
a launching pad for such hedge-fund stars as Tudor Investment
Corp.’s Paul Tudor Jones and Moore Capital Management
LP’s Louis Moore Bacon. It became the base for what is
now the firm’s fund of funds business.
In 1994, a University of Chicago Ph.D. named Clifford Asness
joined Goldman Sachs to build a quantitative research
department. Asness soon began managing money and started
Global Alpha in 1995. In 1996, the fund scored a 111 percent
return, and in 1997, a 42 percent gain. Investors clamored to
give Global Alpha their money. In 1998, Asness and three colleagues
went on to found AQR Capital Management LLC.
McNulty retired from Goldman Sachs in 2001, the year the
firm’s assets under management hit $351 billion. Since 2007,
Goldman has played musical chairs with the division’s management.
In September of that year, Forst, who had been
Goldman’s chief administrative officer, was named co-head
of investment management with Kraus, who had run the
business, with other co-heads, since 2001. Forst, now 50, took
over as sole head when Kraus left in March 2008.
Forst resigned from Goldman just three months after
Kraus’s departure, taking a newly created administrative position
at Harvard University reporting to President Drew
Faust. In the fall of 2008, he briefly worked with Neel Kashkari
at the Treasury Department in creating the new Office of
Financial Stability. In May 2009, Forst abruptly resigned
from Harvard, returning to Goldman in September, first as
head of strategy and then, once more, as co-head of the
division. In that capacity, he
replaced Spilker, a 20-year
Goldman veteran who had
been tapped for the post in
June 2008, only to resign
after a run of less than two
years. He’s now president of
private-equity firm Apollo
Global Management LLC.
Forst’s co-head today is
Tim O’Neill, another former
head of strategy. One
recurring element in the
constant turnover: none of
the new investment heads
had spent their careers in
asset management. “It was
demotivating,” says a former
Last year, Goldman named
Jim O’Neill (no relation to
Tim), who was head of global
economics, as chairman of
GSAM. He works out of London
and reports to Forst and
O’Neill. One of his assignments
is to keep a watch on
the so-called BRIC countries—
an acronym for Brazil, Russia,
India and China that O’Neill
The executive shake-ups are a reflection of Blankfein’s
determination to crush any independent tendencies at
GSAM that might be left over from the days of McNulty and
Kraus, former Goldman employees say. Blankfein and his
charges have pushed efforts to “Goldmanize” GSAM,
according to a former GSAM executive. Among other things,
that means assessing performance on short-term, rather
than long-term, results.
Senior level turnover generates tensions, Merrill
Lynch’s Moszkowski says, especially in investment
management, where clients yank accounts
with little cause. “Investment management organizations
are delicate organisms; it’s all about human
capital and intellectual property,” he says.
Management continuity should be priority No. 1, money
manager Schutz says. “The key at any asset manager is to
avoid the kind of turnover GSAM has seen,” he says. “You
need a history of keeping people in the same positions.”
Blankfein & Co. periodically remind investors of the firm’s
commitment to expanding GSAM. In a February 2010 letter to
shareholders, Blankfein and President Gary Cohn said the
firm would be looking for money management clients at home
and in developing markets,
including Brazil, China and
the Middle East. In a Janu-
ary investor call, Viniar said
GSAM was primed for new
hiring. “There is more focus
on the investment management
business than on other
areas,” he said.
Less publicly, Blankfein
and Cohn have been overhauling
GSAM in moves
designed to tether it more
closely to its parent, former
employees say. GSAM
has moved into Goldman’s
new offices at 200 West
St. The head office has
38 BloomBerg markets March 2011
jim o’neill was named GSAM chairman in 2010.
consolidated McNulty’s 10
investment boutiques into
four broad groups: quantitative,
fixed income and alternative.
Compensation of GSAM
which under Kraus was tied
directly to performance and revenues, is now largely determined
subjectively at the discretion of management, according
to two former GSAM portfolio managers. A risk manager
from Goldman can demand that portfolio managers cut holdings
or reduce leverage—something that didn’t happen under
McNulty and Kraus. At one point, two former employees say,
Goldman’s top management was demanding hourly profit
and loss statements from certain teams, reflecting their
short-term, trading mind-set.
Their independence gone, a parade of portfolio managers
have left for rival firms or to start their own. Many newcomers
come from the banking or trading side of Goldman.
None of the changes Blankfein has ushered in will matter
much if the lifeblood of any asset manager—performance—
doesn’t rebound soon. Investors can be an impatient lot. Jim
Clark, for one, didn’t wait. “I concluded that I don’t need
these hedge funds and I don’t want these Goldman Sachs
managers,” he says. In 2009, Clark moved almost all of his
money to Morgan Stanley.
richard teitelBaum iS a SeNior writer at bloomberG marKetS iN
New yorK. rteitelbaum1@bloomberG.Net with aSSiStaNCe from
christine harPer iN New yorK.
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