How Big a Hit Will Goldman Take?

As the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission wrestles with Goldman Sachs (GS) to settle fraud charges, it will be under pressure from lawmakers and the public to punish the Wall Street giant with a fine that some legal analysts predict could be $1 billion or more. "There's been a lot of attention paid to this on Capitol Hill and in the press," says James Coffman, a former SEC attorney who negotiated a $300 million settlement with Time Warner (TMX) in 2005. Coffman predicts Goldman Sachs will pay "about $100 million or more" in any accord it reaches with the SEC. Others think the tab will be higher. "The goalpost is $1 billion, minimum," says James Cox, a securities law professor at Duke University. That would be the biggest settlement ever by a financial company.

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