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Goldman Sachs grows stronger even as reputation slides

The investment bank ranked first in merger and acquisition activity in the first quarter, up from No. 3 last year, and rose six spots in the capital markets sector.

April 07, 2010|By Nathaniel Popper

Reporting from New York — Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s public relations problems don't seem to be hurting its ability to do business.

In the first quarter of this year, as its image woes intensified, the firm had more success than any other investment bank in attracting clients, data tracker Dealogic reported Tuesday.

Goldman was the most popular bank for advising clients involved in mergers and acquisitions -- up from No. 3 last year, Dealogic said. The bank came in second in the rankings of firms in the capital markets sector, which includes underwriting stock offerings. That was up from eighth last year.

The results show that potential clients care less about their investment bank's image than its ability to serve their needs, said Dick Bove, a banking analyst at Rochdale Securities.

"Nobody is going to stop doing business with Goldman Sachs," Bove said. "They're just not going to do it -- because Goldman is just better than everybody else. And that's the bottom line."

A Goldman spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Goldman has one of the worst reputations among the wider public of any big company in the U.S., according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive. Among the 60 companies in the survey, Goldman ranked higher than only four, all of which nearly failed in the financial crisis, including American International Group Inc.

Goldman came through the crisis with flying colors, financially. But since then its role in controversial deals during the crisis has generated much unfavorable publicity. A Rolling Stone columnist last year called the company "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity."

In March the firm listed bad publicity for the first time as one of the risks to its business.

Nonetheless, Goldman was involved in six of the 10 largest mergers and acquisitions of the first quarter of 2010 -- including the largest one, the sale of one of AIG's largest insurance businesses, Dealogic said. The bank was involved in 61 deals altogether and won 10% of the revenue in the sector.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., whose reputation was not especially damaged by the financial crisis, fell from first to fifth in the mergers and acquisitions rankings but retained its top spot in capital markets.

nathaniel.popper@

latimes.com

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