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TheStreet Open House

10 Dumbest Things on Wall Street, 2010 (Part 1)

The Vampire Squid Strikes Again

In 2010, Goldman Sachs struggled mightily (and rather unsuccessfully, if we do say so ourselves) to combat the notion that it is, as Matt Taibbi once wrote, "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." An article in The New York Times in early January helped cement that reputation -- and raised the arched eyebrow of the 5 Dumbest editors.

Originally published on Jan. 15 -- Is it us, or shouldn't the braniacs at Goldman Sachs (GS - Get Report) know better by now than to send out emails that make them look like the soulless, money-sucking monsters that they might, in fact, be?

A Goldman Sachs executive said the gold-standard investment bank profited by trading ahead of or against its own clients, according to the New York Times Wednesday. Thomas Mazarakis, who leads Goldman's fundamental strategies group, informed select clients in an email that his unit regularly offered investment ideas that the firm had already traded on. The Times also reported Mazarakis as saying that Goldman sometimes takes the other side of the trade, or betting against a particular financial product recommended by the investment bank.

"We may trade, and may have existing positions, based on trading ideas before we have discussed those trading ideas with you," the Times quoted Mazarakis as writing in the email.

He should have just said, "Heads we win, tails you lose." It would have sounded better.

And boy, the timing could not have been worse. Not only was Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein grilled about the banking crisis on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, but Goldman and the rest of Wall Street's biggest banks are currently being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for bundling up and selling to clients dirty mortgage bombs while simultaneously betting they will blow up.

Goldman spokesman Lucas van Praag told the Times that Goldman has been "providing this disclosure, which we think is best practice, for a number of years and there is nothing new in the disclosure you were sent."

Curious thing how the "best practice" at Goldman so often means the perfect storm for everybody else.

TheStreet Says: Is Goldman losing its golden touch?

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