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After the SEC's Goldman Suit, Other Banks Being Scrutinized

Reports about Deutsche Bank's CDO deals with Paulson & Co. raise disclosure issues like those for which the SEC sued Goldman Sachs. But Deutsche Bank says its situation was different.

Goldman Sachs is going to be big in the news today, but it's not the only one feeling the heat.

Two weeks ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Goldman for not disclosing the involvement of a hedge fund--Paulson & Co.--in selecting the assets that went into a particular CDO that Goldman then structured and sold to investors. Goldman had told investors that ACA, a third-party CDO manager, had selected the assets, neglecting to mention that Paulson was heavily involved and was also betting against the same CDO. (Goldman says that its investors were "among the most sophisticated mortgage investors in the world," mitigating its disclosure responsibilities, and that the company had not built its portfolio to fail.)

On Monday, The Atlantic detailed how Deutsche Bank also did CDO deals with Paulson & Co. (The Wall Street Journal also cited the Deutsche-Paulson CDOs last week.) Deutsche allowed the hedge fund to help select the assets that would go into the CDO, and then, like Goldman, it sold that CDO to investors, apparently without disclosing that Paulson was betting against the CDO. One of those investors was the German bank IKB -- which also invested in the deal at the center of the SEC's Goldman suit, as well as another doomed deal that we've reported the hedge fund Magnetar helped build and bet against. (Magnetar denies it was "net" betting against its own CDOs.)

Here's a key line from The Atlantic:

Two Deutsche Bank traders who requested anonymity say that Paulson's role, both in selecting a reference portfolio and in shorting it, was never disclosed to any customers taking the other side of the trade on CDO deals. In fact, they never told clients who was on the other side of a trade. The traders cited IKB as one of the customers who bought CDO trades for which Paulson & Co. helped select the reference portfolios.

Deutsche's defense? Unlike Goldman, it didn't use a CDO manager in this particular deal.

"No third-party collateral manager was utilized for these deals, which eliminated the potential for deception with respect to the role of such a manager," Deutsche Bank's head of communications told The Atlantic.

We've reported that many other major banks--including Deutsche--worked with Magnetar to create CDO deals that were similar to Goldman's. Indeed, Merrill Lynch has been sued over one such deal. 

In other Goldman news: a shareholder filed a lawsuit against the company on Monday--the third lawsuit filed since news of the SEC's fraud charges first broke, but the first centering on the company's failure to disclose the letter it received last year from the SEC, which warned of potential charges. Three senior executives are also named as defendants, according to The Wall Street Journal. Goldman Sachs did not immediately return calls by either the Journal or ProPublica seeking comment on the lawsuit.

As we've noted, the SEC does not require companies to disclose when they receive a formal notice, called a Wells notice, warning them of potential legal action. Still, some companies consider the information to be material and many do disclose when they receive Wells notices. Goldman did not.

The SEC has already said it will look into deals by similar banks, but lawmakers aren't done with Goldman yet. On Monday, Roll Call reported that 60 House Democrats have signed on to a letter calling on the regulator to investigate Goldman's other 24 Abacus CDO deals.

Seven different Goldman Sachs executives are scheduled to testify before the Senate investigations subcommittee today. Among them are Fabrice Tourre, one of the defendants in the SEC's lawsuit, and CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Check back for coverage of this hearing later today.

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