1MDB Scandal Costs Goldman Sachs Billions; Firm Pledges to Improve
In another example of the high cost and reputational risk involved in governance scandals, Goldman Sachs announced on Friday that it has reached a multibillion-dollar settlement with the government of Malaysia to resolve the proceedings in the country against the bank in the 1MDB case.
1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) is a state-owned investment fund created to pursue projects for the economic benefit of the country and its people. In 3 bond offerings executed by Goldman Sachs between 2012 and 2013, the fund raised approximately $6.6 billion for 1MDB, a substantial portion of which was allegedly stolen by people with control over the fund and Malaysian government officials. In a settlement last year with former Goldman Managing Director and Chairman of South East Asia Tim Leissner, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission outlined its findings regarding executive’s involvement in the scandal, and the fees the bank earned from the deals, including:
“As part of the scheme, Leissner and others bribed government officials in Malaysia and in Abu Dhabi to obtain and retain lucrative business for Goldman Sachs, including the 2012 and 2013 bond deals, from which Goldman Sachs earned approximately $600 million.”
The SEC findings also revealed that Leissner and others concealed from the bank his relationship with, and involvement in the deal of Malaysian intermediary Jho Low, now alleged to have stolen billions from the fund. According to the findings:
“Leissner selectively concealed from other employees of Goldman Sachs, including the GS Committees and their members, that he was working with Low as an intermediary to secure the deals. Leissner did this in an effort to avoid potential heightened scrutiny of the bond deals by the GS Committees, the Compliance Group or the Intelligence Group.”
In the new settlement, Goldman Sachs agreed to pay the Government of Malaysia $2.5 billion, and provided a guarantee that the government will receive at least $1.4 billion in proceeds from assets related to 1MDB seized by authorities around the world, in exchange for resolving all criminal and regulatory proceedings in Malaysia involving the firm and its current and former directors, excluding Leissner and Roger Ng, who worked with Leissner. Goldman still faces other pending investigations in the matter, including with the U.S. Department of Justice.
In a statement released following the announcement of the settlement, Goldman pledged to learn and improve from the experience, though the bank did not provide specific actions it would take in this direction:
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the Government of Malaysia to resolve outstanding charges and claims against Goldman Sachs. Today’s settlement is an important step towards putting the 1MDB matter behind us and will help enable the Malaysian government to move forward with additional recovery efforts and to execute on its economic priorities. There are important lessons to be learned from this situation, and we must be self-critical to ensure that we only improve from the experience.”