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Searching For A Heart Of Goldman: Seven And A Half Things To Know

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Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein

Thing One: Ganging Up On Goldman: Let's face it, it's not easy being a Vampire Squid. Constantly lurking in the shadows with nothing but your bottomless wealth to comfort you, hated for your success, misunderstood by the very unmoneyed, unwashed masses that thrive on the tips and tax dollars you trickle down on them, sometimes, when you're in the mood.

It's not going to get any easier today, with the dead trees and the Series of Tubes all buzzing with stories suggesting the Vampire Squid (a.k.a. Goldman Sachs) might not always operate with the best interests of its clients at heart. In other words, if you have a giant pile of money and see Goldman Sachs coming your way, these stories seem to say, you'll probably wish you had some of that squid's ink jets to cloud the waters so you can make a quick getaway.

Bloomberg leads off with a story suggesting Goldman may have immediately made nearly $800 million (before hedges and other offsetting expenses) when it convinced Greece to make a confusing and complex derivatives deal to unsuccessfully hide its massive debt load.

And then Andrew Ross Sorkin in The New York Times and Francesco Guerrera of the Wall Street Journal both have write-ups of a judge's paint-peeling screed last week accusing Goldman of having conflicts of interest in advising El Paso on its bid to buy pipeline company Kinder Morgan. Goldman advised both sides in the deal, had a banker and a private-equity arm that owned shares of Kinder Morgan, and even owned part of the catering company that provided sandwiches for the negotiations (OK, that part's not true). Goldman maintains that everything was on the up-and-up.

Thing Two: A Bite Out Of Apple: Has Apple peaked? America's favorite company is expected to unveil its new iPad on Wednesday, and its stock price has risen to an all-time high in anticipation, pushing its market value up to $500 billion -- a number only a few giants of corporate America -- think Exxon Mobil and General Electric -- have achieved. That naturally has Wall Street thinking it's time to dump this puppy, which has become "a bit of a casino stock," writes Reuters.

Thing Three: Hot Greece: While the world is still waiting for the outcome of Greece's efforts to get its private bondholders to accept ugly haircuts on the value of its debt -- without which it can't get its latest loan from Europe -- the International Institute of Finance has given us some light reading to pass the time: It has written a doomsday scenario, in which Greece has a messy default, potentially costing the euro zone more than $1 trillion and leading to bailouts of Italy and Spain. It remains to be seen whether this will scare bondholders enough to take a big loss. Let's guess not.

Thing Four: Koch vs. Cato: The fabulously wealthy Koch Brothers, Charles and David, are Nos. 8 and 9, respectively, on Bloomberg's Billionaires Index this morning, and, if mushed together into one person, would be the second-richest man in the world after Carlos Slim Helu. But they've got problems, just like you or me or a Vampire Squid! They are the benevolent benefactors of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank. But Cato is biting the hands that feed it, complaining that the Koch Brothers' increasingly noisy advocacy of Republican politics is undermining its reputation for independent analysis, The New York Times writes.

Thing Five: Corporate Debt Deluge: The stock market has been booming, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average to 13,000 over and over again, just so we can get excited about it multiple times. The economy seems to be on the mend, too, which is helping drive the stock market higher. But in the bond market, interest rates are still near historic lows, partly because the Federal Reserve is stepping on rates, and partly because investors still aren't convinced by the recovery. Corporate America isn't wasting any time taking advantage of record-low borrowing costs, issuing truckloads of corporate debt, the Financial Times writes, including nearly $20 billion yesterday alone, the biggest one-day debt pile since last November.

Thing Six: Libor Overhaul: Speaking of debt, British regulators are considering an overhaul of the obscure system by which banks set the overnight interest rates at which they lend each other money, a system that may be prone to shady manipulation, the Financial Times writes. Why should you care? Because this rate, known as Libor, affects borrowing costs throughout the global economy, including for mortgages, auto loans and credit cards.

Thing Seven: The Saddest Thing You'll Read All Day: Welcome to America 2012, where so many pre-schoolers have such rotten teeth that dental practices are building surgical wings where they regularly put little kids under general anesthesia while they make massive repairs to their mouths. This is at least partly because parents are increasingly too busy to brush their kids' teeth, while constantly giving them sweets to keep them occupied, The New York Times writes.

Thing Seven And One Half: Wire Madness: President Obama, when recently asked to name his favorite Wire character, said Omar had to be "the No. 1 seed." That inspired Grantland to concoct a March Madness-style tournament bracket with 32 different Wire characters -- Omar getting a No. 1 seed, of course. Readers vote on character matchups at Grantland's Facebook page. Today is the second day of first-round matchups, including one possible big upset, Bunk vs. Brother Mouzone.

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