Banking & Finance

Why Goldman Sachs Just Paid $3.9 Billion to Settle 1MDB Claims

For its part in the money-laundering scheme run by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (NYSE: GS) agreed on Friday to pay the government of Malaysia $3.9 billion to “resolve all the criminal and regulatory proceedings in Malaysia” against the company, its subsidiaries, and certain past and current directors.

Goldman’s role in the scandal surfaced in 2018 when the Malaysian government filed criminal charges against the bank resulting from Goldman’s role in arranging three debt offerings with an aggregate value of $6.5 billion for 1MDB. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Goldman earned some $600 million in fees for its work on behalf of 1MDB.

A former Goldman executive, Andrea Vella, who headed the Asia investment bank in 2012 and 2013, was banned from the banking industry by the U.S. Federal Reserve in February. According to the Fed, Vella failed to notify Goldman of the involvement in the financing deals of Low Taek Jho, a person previously identified by Goldman as a concern.

Two other Goldman bankers, Timothy Leissner and Roger Ng, were indicted in the United States for conspiracy to launder money and to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Leissner pleaded guilty and forfeited $43.7 million, according to CNBC. Ng pleaded not guilty and his case is still pending in U.S. federal court.

High-level officials and others who worked for the company allegedly misappropriated more than $4.5 billion in 1MDB funds. The U.S. Justice Department has sought the forfeiture of more than $1.8 billion worth of assets embezzled from 1MDB and recovered or assisted Malaysia in recovering about $1.1 billion. Among the assets recovered was a $60 million settlement from the producers of the film The Wolf of Wall Street.

Last November, Low Taek Jho, who had been facing Justice Department charges, gave about $700 million in assets in exchange for having the charges dropped.

In announcing the settlement, Goldman said that there are “important lessons to be learned from this situation, and we must be self-critical to ensure that we only improve from the experience.” An expensive lesson, even for an investment bank.

Investors have breathed a sigh of relief following the settlement. Goldman’s stock traded up about 0.9% Friday morning, at $204.75 in a 52-week range of $130.85 to $250.46. The price target on the stock is $245.16.