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Goldman Sees ‘Muted’ Impact From Bank Downgrades, Analyst Says

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Financial Officer David A. Viniar expects that Moody’s Investors Service’s pending downgrades of major U.S. banks will have a “muted impact” on the companies, according to an analyst.

Chris Kotowski at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York published a research note describing a meeting he held yesterday with Viniar and Stephen M. Scherr, Goldman Sachs’s head of financing and Latin America.

Viniar, 56, said “the downgrades had been ‘totally telegraphed’ (i.e. priced in) and because it was the whole industry would have a muted impact,” Kotowski wrote. “Financial institutions are major issuers of debt, institutional investors need to buy it and anyone who was not aware of the downgrades was probably in the wrong business.”

Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Citigroup Inc. are among companies that may be downgraded by two levels, Moody’s said in a statement in February, adding that the “guidance is indicative only.” Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse Group AG and UBS AG could be lowered by as much as three notches, Moody’s said.

Viniar and James Gorman, Morgan Stanley’s chief executive officer, are among Wall Street executives who have publicly questioned Moody’s analysis. Gorman said yesterday at an investor conference in New York that a three-level cut of Morgan Stanley’s rating would be “somewhat stunning” given the firm’s increased capital.

Macro Hedges

Kotowski’s note said he also asked whether Goldman Sachs uses “global macro hedges” to manage its risk. JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon is testifying today in the Senate about his bank’s trading loss on derivatives that the firm has described as designed to help offset, or hedge, the company’s credit risks.

Viniar’s response was that “essentially they don’t use them,” Kotowski wrote. “Philosophically they believe that risk management should be done in the business unit, not centralized. The business needs to own the risk, and his role as CFO is to set limits on it.”

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