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More than seven years after the worst of the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs is again paying a price for the role it played.
The Wall Street firm said on Thursday it had agreed to a civil settlement of up to $5 billion with federal prosecutors and regulators to resolve claims stemming from the marketing and selling of faulty mortgage securities to investors.
Goldman announced the settlement — the final terms of which are still being negotiated — after the markets closed.
Goldman, which is scheduled to report fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday, said the settlement would reduce earnings in that period by approximately $1.5 billion on an after-tax basis.
In the early days of the financial crisis, Goldman Sachs received an outsize share of criticism from politicians and the media as its trading desk made money by betting against the housing market in the run-up to the crisis.
But in the end, Goldman’s role in churning out faulty mortgages and securities backed by home loans to borrowers who could not afford them was smaller than that of many other Wall Street firms like Bank of America or JPMorgan Chase.
As a result, Goldman’s settlement is far smaller than the sums paid by other firms for selling flawed mortgage securities. Goldman is among the last firms to reach a civil settlement with a task force of federal prosecutors, state attorneys general and regulators empowered to investigate Wall Street’s role in cobbling together securities from all the mortgages that borrowers found themselves unable to afford.
The agreement in principle requires Goldman to pay $2.385 billion in civil penalties and $875 million in cash and provide up to $1.8 billion in relief to consumers.
Bank of America in 2014 paid about $16.6 billion in a similar settlement with federal and state agencies, and JPMorgan Chase paid about $13 billion in 2013. In all, the banks have paid more than $40 billion in settlements to resolve claims investigated by the task force.
All the mortgage settlements have included a certain amount of so-called soft money that is intended for loan modifications or foreclosure relief for consumers harmed by the bad mortgages. Some consumer advocates have raised concerns about how that money is allocated and how much comes directly from each bank’s bottom line. In the case of Goldman, the soft money is the $1.8 billion.
In the case of Bank of America, the soft dollar portion of its settlement totaled about $7 billion. But Bank of America was involved in writing far more mortgages to consumers than Goldman Sachs, and it is unclear exactly how Goldman’s consumer relief will be doled out and to whom.
The settlement is on top of the approximately $3 billion Goldman paid to the Federal Housing Finance Agency in 2014 to settle claims with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the sale of flawed mortgage securities. In that deal, Goldman settled the matter by buying back bonds from the mortgage finance firms.