Goldman Pursues Volcker Rule Exemption for Bank Stakes in ‘Credit Funds’
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), which says it owns the world’s largest family of so-called mezzanine loan funds, is asking regulators to loosen proposed limits on bank investments in such pools.
Four Goldman Sachs employees and three lawyers from Sullivan & Cromwell LLP met on Feb. 2 with Federal Reserve Board staff to discuss Volcker rule limits on banks’ fund investments, according to a summary published yesterday by the central bank. The Volcker rule limits depository institutions from supplying more than 3 percent of the capital in a hedge fund, private- equity fund or other “covered fund.”
Goldman Sachs “expressed their view that the proposed rule does not permit a banking entity to acquire over 3 percent of the ownership interests in a ‘credit fund’ that is principally engaged in making or acquiring extensions of credit,” according to the Fed summary. “GS explained that investors in credit funds require at least 5 percent ‘skin in the game’ from sponsors.”
Goldman Sachs, which was the most profitable securities firm in Wall Street history before converting to a bank in 2008, typically has supplied about 30 percent of the money to the hedge funds, private-equity funds and credit funds the firm manages for clients. Andrea Raphael, a spokeswoman for New York- based Goldman Sachs, declined to comment.
GS Mezzanine Partners, which raised $13 billion for its fifth fund in 2007, has been extending mezzanine credit to buyout firms and corporations since 1996, according to Goldman Sachs’s website. Mezzanine debt, often used in leveraged buyouts, typically is repaid after bank loans in a bankruptcy and has higher yields than broadly marketed public bonds.
“This is the largest mezzanine fund family in the world, with more than $28 billion of leveraged capital raised since 1996,” the company says on the website.
In 2008, Goldman Sachs said it raised $10.5 billion in equity and leverage commitments for its first GS Loan Partners fund, including more than $1 billion from the firm and Goldman Sachs employees. The company also makes and buys loans through Goldman Sachs Credit Partners LP.
The line between hedge funds and credit funds isn’t always clear as some hedge funds make and buy loans as part of a credit strategy. Lloyd C. Blankfein, 57, Goldman Sachs’s chairman and chief executive officer, told investors at a November 2007 conference that the firm recently had raised “Liberty Harbor, a $2.7 billion credit hedge fund, and GS Liquidity Partners, a $1.8 billion fund raised to take advantage of distress opportunities in the credit markets.”
Ben Adler, Eric Edwards, Michael Koester and David Thomas - - Goldman Sachs representatives at the meeting with Fed staff -- recommended that the Volcker rule should allow banks to own more than 3 percent of a credit fund as long as the fund is “predominantly engaged” in extending credit, originating or acquiring loans and doesn’t employ “excess” leverage, according to the meeting summary.
The exception also should require that the funds’ strategy is to hold loans for at least three years, that they only use derivatives to hedge interest rate and currency risk, and that the funds’ obligations aren’t guaranteed or supported by the sponsoring banking entity, according to the summary.
Whitney Chaterjee, Rodgin Cohen and Michael Wiseman attended the Feb. 2 meeting from Sullivan & Cromwell, according to the Fed summary. The central bank representatives at the meeting were Sean Campbell, Anna Harrington and Christopher Paridon, according to the summary.
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