Goldman Sachs Still in the Money

| Wed Aug. 11, 2010 10:40 AM EDT

Back when the financial reform bill was passed, I said that if bloated finance industry profits declined over the next few years that meant reform had probably worked. If not, not. It's still too early to know if that's going to happen, but today the LA Times reports on a bellwether:

As Wall Street scrambles to find the best and most profitable way to operate under the new financial reform law, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. — the firm that was expected to suffer the most under the legislation — could emerge practically unscathed.....Top Goldman executives [have] privately advised analysts that the bank did not expect the reform measure to cost it any revenue.

....Richard Bove, a bank analyst at Rochdale Securities, said he had changed his view of the law's effect on Goldman. "I thought this company was going to be really harmed by this bill; now I've figured out that it's not going to happen," he said. "They should win big here."

....Some on Wall Street had predicted the reform would trigger an exodus of traders and executives to hedge funds and other private firms that will not fall under the jurisdiction of the new regulatory regime. But with the adaptations the banks have been making, they have so far persuaded most of those employees to stay, industry insiders say.

Among those staff members, "some of the anxiety that was tied to this bill really dissipated after it was signed," said Ron Geffner, head of the financial services group at New York law firm Sadis & Goldberg.

Who knows? Maybe Goldman really is just smarter than all the other guys, and they're going to prosper even as the entire industry shrinks. Anything is possible. But this is really not a healthy sign.