Goldman Sachs Fumbles! Can Competitors Recover the Ball?

07/23/2010 12:41 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Over the past decade, Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) ran up field like Alabama football's Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. However, yesterday the SEC spearheaded Goldman like NFL superstar Ray Lewis. Fumble!!!

If I were the VP of Sales at Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS) overlooking Times Square at 1585 Broadway, this morning I would've corralled my troops into a dark room, forced them to watch Al Pacino's locker room speech from Oliver Stone's movie Any Given Sunday, turned up the lights, and said:

"Schedule a meeting with every single Goldman client, bring the Wall Street Journal and show them that Goldman's misleadings are no longer up for debate... they are as clear as black-and-white."

I imagine this is the type of command being sent down the ranks at almost every Goldman competitor across the globe. Of course, some firms won't have the speed or skills to recover Goldman's fumble. But I guarantee every warm-blooded alpha male and female in high-finance will be sprinting to that ball with reckless abandon.

This, my friends, will be the largest cost for Goldman's unsavory advisory dealings. Although the $550 million settlement with U.S. regulators is the largest in Wall Street history, it's merely a slap on the wrist in the grand scheme of corrupting the entire financial system. This fine is but another of countless examples where malicious individuals are able to project their sins onto an artificial entity which can easily take the hit like a tank does when confronted by a single bullet.

One thing that will make more than a dent is the "new industry standard for disclosures in private sales of securities." As Barry Ritholtz notes, that means "[T]he entire street, and not just Goldman Sachs, lost this case." (Well, that's if we exclude the windfall for securities lawyers.)

So, as the media spends the next decade or so following the new Financial Reform Law committees and all their filibustering (see "The Mainstream Media Doesn't Know Sh*t About Securities Law or the Goldman Case- with Barry Ritholtz of The Big Picture"), the real story just may be how the private firms react to Goldman's fumble.