Sunday, April 18, 2010

Supping with the Devil

There is an old proverb about supping with the devil which "[advocates] caution when dealing with dangerous or malevolent persons" which last week's civil fraud suit against Goldman Sachs brought to mind. Without going into the legal merits of the case, it is just an extreme example of what has been long apparent. Namely that Goldman Sachs (and similar big financial institutions) make big profits by taking advantage of naive customers. Given this it is a mystery to me why people voluntarily deal with them. Some dealings are hard to avoid, if you need to sell a million shares of IBM or convert a hundred million dollars to euros you will need to deal with a large financial institution. But this sort of basic financial service is not where the exorbitant profits are being made. They are being made with exotic financial products (like the one which is the subject of the suit) which one could easily do without. So why be the sucker in the game? As I said it is a mystery to me.

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