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Goldman Made Between $11 And $16 Billion In 2009 Trading CDS And Other Derivatives

Tyler Durden
Zero Hedge
Aug 8, 2010

As part of its most recent FCIC grilling, David Viniar left the political theater a month ago with a homework assignment to disclose all of the firm’s derivative profits, as well as provide granular detail on its derivative trades. Today, courtesy of a memo from Goldman intercepted by the WSJ, we now know that derivative trades accounted for between 25% and 35% of 2009 revenue. “Based on the percentages provided by Goldman, such businesses generated $11.3 billion to $15.9 billion of the company’s $45.17 billion in net revenue for 2009.” As a reminder, the Office of the Currency Comptroller noted (table 2) Goldman had $49 trillion in total derivatives as of Q1. However, the bulk of the profit comes from trading credit derivatives where Goldman, post the assimilation of Bear and Lehman into the collective, is now virtually an undisputed trading powerhouse, and due to the OTC nature of the product allowing firms to set bids and asks as is, as long as liquidity in cash products continues to decline, Goldman will continue to dominate not only the most profitable vertical of derivative trading, but CDS will continue to generate roughly a third of the firm’s profits, for both flow and prop. Post the recent shifts in prop trading across Wall Street, it will be interesting to see what the impact on the top line will be now that allegedly CDS trading at Goldman will be exclusively on a flow basis. The irony is that the Volcker Rule seems to focus almost exclusively on equity trading, while the bulk of the firm’s questionable flow-prop “Chinese wall” transgressions may occur precisely in derivative trading, and should be the one area under much more scrutiny by regulators and legislators.

More from the WSJ:

Goldman’s analysis reflects all derivatives products, ranging from credit to equity to interest rates, traded on and off exchanges, said the person familiar with the situation.

Goldman said it doesn’t conduct its businesses in a way that delineates revenue from derivatives transactions or other types of trading, this person said.

For example, Goldman cited credit-trading desks that are separated by industry group, adding that traders are indifferent to whether they are selling clients a bond or a credit derivative. As a result, separating the revenue among the two product lines is useless, Goldman told the FCIC. The firm also said its technology systems firm-wide don’t single out derivatives transactions.

The analysis was based on a “best guess” of the main type of trading on each Goldman trading desk at the firm, said the person familiar with the matter. The numbers vary widely, with the company’s fixed-income unit getting much more of its revenue from derivatives than investment banking, where no revenue is tied to derivatives.

Keep in mind that Goldman’s critical Trading and Principle revenue stream declined notably in Q2 as posted previously, which is a function of declining trade volumes, not so much in equity but across fixed income as well. Furthermore, following the decline in BofA’s record daily trading profitability from perfection to 81%, we are waiting for Goldman’s 10-Q with baited breath: we anticipate that Goldman will experience a comparable if not worse decline in Q2 trading prowess. In light of the firm’s legal troubles in Q2, and its record low public perception, how much of this may have been on purpose is a different question.

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