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Goldman Sachs

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"faces increased risk of a material lawsuit by the Department of Justice for allegedly misleading clients," a Standard & Poor's equity analyst wrote in a brief note published Thursday, while lowering his price target on Goldman shares.

The note, released at 11 a.m. Thursday, made similar points

to one released before the market opened by Rochdale Securities analyst Richard Bove

. The shares opened lower after Bove, who only recently had cut his rating to "Neutral" from "Buy," dropped it to "Sell," citing a critical article by Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, who earlier gained fame for referring to Goldman as a "'great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."

The DOJ issue referred to in the S&P note concerns a series of complex debt securities known as collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), that Goldman sold to clients without disclosing it had created the CDOs in consultation with hedge fund Paulson & Co., which planned to bet the bonds would default.

Goldman settled fraud charges with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

for $350 million in connection with the CDOs last year, but in April the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations published a staff report on the issue, which it referred to the SEC and the Department of Justice for review, according to press reports. Goldman took note of these facts in its recent 10-Q, while also listing a series of other regulatory and legal inquiries into other activities at the company.

Citing the risk of the DoJ lawsuit, as well as "a material headwind in the near term" due to the questions surrounding the implementation of the Dodd Frank financial reform legislation passed last year, S&P analyst Chris Maimone dropped his price target on Goldman by $20 to $156, while leaving his earnings estimates unchanged.

Goldman shares opened lower on Thursday, and continued to fall all morning.

They were down 4.71% to $140.92 in early afternoon trading on Thursday, well below shares of rivals like

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Maimone told


that while S&P had been considering dropping its target price on Goldman for some time, due to the ongoing scrutiny surrounding the firm. The Bove report, and the market's reaction to it, provided "further affirmation of what we were thinking in terms of acknowledging the potential downside" of investors' shaky confidence in Goldman's ability to withstand ongoing legal and political trouble.


Written by Dan Freed in New York


Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.