Goldman Sachs earnings calls aren’t known for their levity. But there was a funny moment in this morning’s fourth-quarter investor question-and-answer period with CFO David Viniar.
Viniar had already dodged one inquiry about Goldman’s recently-aborted $1.5 billion private Facebook offering to U.S. investors—a move the firm made Monday in light of what it described as “intense media coverage” that raised potential questions about the propriety of the deal under securities laws. (Shares will now be provided solely to offshore investors.)
So when bank analyst David Trone jumped in with a humorous request—“Before we begin, is there any way you can get me in on some of that Facebook?”—it prompted some stiff chuckles from Goldman management on the other end of the line.
I called Trone afterward to ask his opinion on the scuttled offering. Was the midcourse change a blow to Goldman’s reputation, I asked, or just a minor setback in yet another of the firm’s strategic coups?
The latter, he said, pointing out that the firm still appears to have landed one of the most envied potential clients of recent years—a pre-IPO tech company with an implied $50 billion valuation.
“It’s Goldman,” Trone explained. Pulling the Facebook investment from U.S. clients “seems on the surface to be an embarrassment, but all it really does is…continue to advertise that Goldman has Facebook, and nobody else does.”
So there may have been a grain of truth to Trone's request (though he insists it was a joke).
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