Goldman Sachs Warns Facebook Investors: You're Dealing With Goldman Sachs

As investors basically trample each other, begging Goldman Sachs to please let them invest in social-networking site Facebook, Goldman is making sure to let clients know that it may cut its own stake in the company’s performance at any moment, without telling them.

Bloomberg got a copy of the Facebook investment profile Goldman provided to its clients, and found an interesting little tidbit from Goldman: “GS Group may at any time further reduce its exposure to its investment in Facebook (through hedging arrangements, sales or otherwise), without notice to the fund or investors in the fund.” This maneuvering comes on top of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s inquiry as to whether the investment vehicle Goldman set up to offer Facebook shares to clients as a way to escape federal disclosure requirements. Bloomberg has more:

“There may be conflicts of interest relating to the underlying investments of the fund and Goldman Sachs,” according to the Facebook offering document’s disclosures section. Material in the documents “is not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness.”

Bloomberg then helpfully points out that Goldman’s $550 million settlement with the SEC last summer stemmed from its dealings in a collateralized debt obligation called Abacus, which Goldman had allegedly engineered with the help of John Paulson so that it would self-destruct once investors bought it.

Whatever may happen to Facebook shares — and plenty of people seem to think they will rise in value — Goldman’s collecting some handsome revenue by dealing with the stock.

Goldman Sachs is charging 0.5 percent of any capital committed to the partnership as an “expense reserve” as well as a 4 percent placement fee and 5 percent of any gains, according to the document.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reports that a segment of Goldman Sachs called Goldman Sachs Capital Partners refused to buy Facebook shares.

To recap: a teeming horde of investors is willing to pay hefty fees to buy shares in Facebook from a firm that has engineered an investment deal to help Facebook avoid disclosure environments. That firm also is not necessarily going to keep its money invested in Facebook, and in fact its wealth management division has declined an opportunity to buy. The scenario raises a question that seems to answer itself: Who’s more likely to win on this trade — Goldman or its customers?

mtaylor [at] | @mbrookstaylor

Goldman Sachs Warns Facebook Investors: You're Dealing With Goldman Sachs