Big investments in Goldman Sachs ( GS) at the height of the financial crisis made a lot of money for Warren Buffett and much less for the federal government, but those results are actually not that surprising. A college professor's recent analysis showed that Buffett's preferred stake in Goldman has been much more profitable than the Treasury Department's. The results provided ammunition for critics who view big banks on Wall Street and wealthy counterparts elsewhere -- in Omaha, for instance -- as villains who took advantage of the government's largesse. But while the numbers might be fresh, the finding is not, since the terms of both agreements were hammered out and publicized nine or 10 months ago. It's also important to note the distinction between how the capital infusions came to be, since Goldman asked Buffett for money, while the government asked Goldman to accept federal funds. In late-September, Goldman and its banking brethren were starved for capital. The credit markets had seized up after the fall of Lehman Brothers -- soon followed to the brink by American International Group ( AIG) -- sending everyone on the hunt for cash. According to the Wall Street Journal, a Goldman investment banker with close ties to Buffett called him up, they hammered out details for a preferred-stock deal, and he was in bed by 10:30 p.m. Fast forward several weeks, and the heads of nine banking titans were sitting around a conference-room table in Lower Manhattan with Treasury Department officials, being told that they all would have to accept varying degrees of federal funding. In return for those cash infusions, the government would receive preferred stakes and warrants to buy common stock.