There’s more to running a successful investment bank than borrowing a lot of money and putting it to speculative use. From Matt Tiabbi and Eric Salzman at taibbi.substack.com:
Nearly fifteen years ago, on December 10, 2006, the CEO of Senderra, a subprime mortgage lender owned by Goldman, Sachs, sent grim news to its parent company. “Credit quality has risen to become the major crisis in the non-prime industry,” Senderra CEO Brad Bradley wrote, adding that “we are seeing unprecedented defaults and fraud in the market.”
Within four days, senior executives at Goldman decided to “get closer to home” by unloading risky mortgage instruments. They didn’t alert regulators, of course, but did save their own hides, with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein soon after ordering subordinates to sell off the ugly “cats and dogs” in their mortgage portfolio.
Around the same time that Goldman was having its come-to-Jesus moment, the heads of rival Lehman Brothers were going the other way. In one meeting, the bank’s head of fixed income, Mike Gelband, pounded a table, telling the firm’s infamous Vaderqsque CEO Richard “Dick” Fuld and hatchetman-president Joe Gregory there was a $15-18 trillion time bomb of lethal leverage hanging over the markets. Once it blew, it would be the “grandaddy of credit crunches,” and Lehman would be toast.
Fuld and Gregory scoffed. They didn’t understand mortgage deals well and thought Gelband lacked nerve. “Be creative,” they told him, adding, “What are you afraid of?”
“We called it ‘Goldman Penis Envy,’” says Lawrence McDonald, former Lehman trader and author of A Colossal Failure of Common Sense. In telling the Gelband story, he explains that Fuld and Gregory were so desperate to beat out Goldman and become the richest men on Wall Street, they chased every bad deal at the peak of the speculative bubble.