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Bank analyst Dick Bove says sell Goldman Sachs: 'Legal issues are just beginning'

Key Points
  • Longtime financials analyst Dick Bove initiates coverage on Goldman Sachs with a sell rating and warns clients the bank's legal troubles are just beginning.
  • "I think that the most negative revelations are yet to come," Bove writes. "Thus, the broader issue is will Goldman's business operations be impacted?"
  • The bank said earlier this year that it could withhold pay from top executives depending on the outcome of an investigation into a Malaysian investment fund.
Dick Bove
Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Longtime bank analyst Dick Bove warned clients Thursday that Goldman Sachs' recent troubles in Malaysia are "just the beginning" of its legal woes.

The closely followed Bove, who joined broker-dealer Odeon earlier this year, initiated coverage of Goldman Sachs with a sell rating.

"It is unclear to us whether Goldman Sachs participated in any inappropriate activities," Bove wrote. "What does seem likely is that Goldman's due diligence efforts will be criticized. If true, this will lead to meaningful changes in company operations and personnel. The company has already decided to withhold payments to some of its top executives due to this matter."

The bank said earlier this year that it could withhold pay from former CEO and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein and other top executives depending on the outcome of an investigation into a Malaysian investment fund called 1MDB.

Goldman helped the fund raise $6.5 billion in 2012 and 2013 in three bond deals but now faces charges by the Malaysian government, which claims assets were plundered from the fund. Goldman Sachs claims it was the victim of deceptive Malaysian officials and the rogue actions of a former banker at the firm.

"I think that the most negative revelations are yet to come," Bove continued. "Thus, the broader issue is will Goldman's business operations be impacted? The company has been involved in questionable operations in Venezuela, also."

Goldman did not immediately return a phone call for comment on Bove's note.

The closely followed financials analyst has been a frequent and vocal critic of the New York-based bank. A frequent target of Bove's frustrations was former Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, whom the analyst often critiqued for his management during the 2008 financial crisis. The analyst was overjoyed last year when the company announced that Blankfein would step down.

"I think it's wonderful. The only bad part about this news is that people are talking about him staying until the end of the year. I think he should leave immediately," Bove told CNBC's "Halftime Report" in March 2018. "I don't think there's any rationale other than the cult of Lloyd Blankfein. … There's no reason for him to stay."

The analyst underscored at the time what he sees as "pathetic" earnings and revenue performance over the past several years relative to the other big banks on Wall Street.