Goldman Sachs ( GS) is an awesome financial institution, but trying to be like Goldman can be hazardous to a financial firm's health.

Now-disgraced former Merrill Lynch CEO Stan O'Neal was apparently obsessed with being like Goldman, as The Wall Street Journal's Randall Smith reported just prior to O'Neal's ouster in 2007. While there are many reasons Merrill nearly went poof before being rescued by Bank of America ( BAC), Smith's story makes a convincing case that trying to keep up with Goldman was part of the problem. The problem with cribbing from someone else's test is when the smart kid changes seats, you're out of luck, because you weren't doing any of the assigned reading.

Now The New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin is worried that, with Goldman hell bent on paying back its $10 billion in TARP funds, other banks will feel pressure to do the same. Unlike Goldman, however, they may not be ready.

Sorkin cites analysts, including Meredith Whitney, who argue Bank of America ( BAC), Citigroup ( C) and maybe even Wells Fargo ( WFC) may not be able to go it alone. Only JPMorgan Chase ( JPM) may have the balance sheet strength to function without government support at this point, Sorkin writes.

Of course holding onto the government money is no obvious solution for the weaker institutions. Not only do they have to continue to put up with government meddling, they also are tacitly admitting, by keeping the money, that they need it.

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