Goldman Sachs -Not so fast!

Will Rogers was fond of saying, “Buy low, sell high … and if it doesn’t go up, don’t buy it!”

That’s a whimsical sentiment, but I wonder what’s in the air when I read about the alleged fraud by Goldman Sachs described in the civil complaint filed by the SEC, referenced in the recent article here. I wouldn’t jump to conclusions too quickly. In too many ways, this episode is reminiscent of earlier 1980s  battles with Michael Milken. Notwithstanding Milken’s misdeeds, my vivid memory is that there were accredited investors and savvy buyers on both sides of those transactions perfectly capable of making independent decisions. Some of them were wrong and they lost money, but in virtually every case, they were well-equipped to make sound decisions … if they did their homework.

These challenges typically arise when people lose money … and there’s no question a lot has been lost. But, to assume that people who lose on one side of a transaction, are incapable of making prudent independent decisions and were sold a bill of goods , is the flawed argument that often pervade these matters. (more…)

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Vol. 62: Strategic Finance Fundamentals: It’s time!

“If I am through learning, I am through.”– John Wooden

Some of you will remember – back in the day – the E. F. Hutton commercials that intoned, “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.” (Some of you are probably wondering – who is E.F. Hutton in the first place?) These days, the Sage of Omaha has taken their place and has the ear of many. When I finished re-reading Warren Buffett’s Annual Letter to Shareholders, it resonated with similar messages in a number of recent articles.

What is growth?

From a Wall Street Journal article on March 25 discussing Conoco/Phillips’ future plans: “We asked ourselves, ‘What is growth?’” an executive said. “Growth could be viewed as just growing absolute volumes, but we felt that in this challenging environment what’s really important is to grow the value of the company.”

Or this one, from an article in the April 5 edition of Business Week about the Sears/K-Mart merger: “Simplistic analyses … ignore the fact that negative or below-market returns on invested capital are as harmful to creditors as to shareholders.”

Finally, in Warren Buffett’s shareholder letter, (more…)

Continue ReadingVol. 62: Strategic Finance Fundamentals: It’s time!