Goldman Sachs Group 10-K 2011
Documents found in this filing:
UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d)
The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act.
Yes o No x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files).
Yes x No o
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrants knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of the Annual Report on Form 10-K or any amendment to the Annual Report on Form 10-K. x
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of large accelerated filer, accelerated filer and smaller reporting company in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer x Accelerated filer o Non-accelerated filer (Do not check if a smaller reporting company) o Smaller reporting company o
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes o No x
As of June 30, 2010, the aggregate market value of the common stock of the registrant held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $66.7 billion.
As of February 11, 2011, there were 520,507,295 shares of the registrants common stock outstanding.
Documents incorporated by reference: Portions of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.s Proxy Statement for its 2011 Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held on May 6, 2011 are incorporated by reference in the Annual Report on Form 10-K in response to Part III, Items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14.
ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2010
Goldman Sachs is a leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm that provides a wide range of financial services to a substantial and diversified client base that includes corporations, financial institutions, governments and high-net-worth individuals.
When we use the terms Goldman Sachs, the firm, we, us and our, we mean The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (Group Inc.), a Delaware corporation, and its consolidated subsidiaries. References to this Form 10-K are to our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010. All references to 2010, 2009 and 2008 refer to our fiscal years ended, or the dates, as the context requires, December 31, 2010, December 31, 2009 and November 28, 2008, respectively.
Group Inc. is a bank holding company and a financial holding company regulated by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Federal Reserve Board). Our U.S. depository institution subsidiary, Goldman Sachs Bank USA (GS Bank USA), is a New York State-chartered bank.
As of December 2010, we had offices in over 30 countries and 44% of our total staff was based outside the Americas (which includes the countries in North and South America). Our clients are located worldwide, and we are an active participant in financial markets around the world. In 2010, we generated 45% of our net revenues outside the Americas. For more information on our geographic results, see Note 27 to the consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8 of this Form 10-K.
Our Business Segments and Segment Operating Results
We report our activities in four business segments: Investment Banking; Institutional Client Services; Investing & Lending; and Investment Management. The chart below presents our four business segments. Prior to the end of 2010, we reported our activities in three segments.
The table below presents our segment operating results.
Investment Banking serves corporate and government clients around the world. We provide financial advisory services and help companies raise capital to strengthen and grow their businesses. We seek to develop and maintain long-term relationships with a diverse global group of institutional clients, including governments, states and municipalities. Our goal is to deliver to our clients the entire resources of the firm in a seamless fashion, with investment banking serving as the main initial point of contact with Goldman Sachs.
Financial Advisory. Financial Advisory includes strategic advisory assignments with respect to mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, corporate defense activities, risk management, restructurings and spin-offs. In particular, we help clients execute large, complex transactions for which we provide multiple services, including one-stop acquisition financing and cross-border structuring expertise.
We also assist our clients in managing their asset and liability exposures and their capital. In addition, we may provide lending commitments and bank loan and bridge loan facilities in connection with our advisory assignments.
Underwriting. The other core activity of Investment Banking is helping companies raise capital to fund their businesses. As a financial intermediary, our job is to match the capital of our investing clients who aim to grow the savings of millions of people with the needs of our corporate and government clients who need financing to generate growth, create jobs and deliver products and services. Our underwriting activities include public offerings and private placements, including domestic and cross-border transactions, of a wide range of securities and other financial instruments. Underwriting also includes revenues from derivative transactions entered into with institutional clients in connection with our underwriting activities.
Equity Underwriting. We underwrite common and preferred stock and convertible and exchangeable securities. We regularly receive mandates for large, complex transactions and have held a leading position in worldwide public common stock offerings and worldwide initial public offerings for many years.
Debt Underwriting. We underwrite and originate various types of debt instruments, including investment-grade and high-yield debt, bank loans and bridge loans, and emerging and growth market debt, which may be issued by, among others, corporate, sovereign, municipal and agency issuers. In addition, we underwrite and originate structured securities, which include mortgage-related securities and other asset-backed securities.
Institutional Client Services
Institutional Client Services serves our clients who come to the firm to buy and sell financial products, raise funding and manage risk. We do this by acting as a market maker and offering market expertise on a global basis. Institutional Client Services makes markets and facilitates client transactions in fixed income, equity, currency and commodity products. In addition, we make markets in and clear client transactions on major stock, options and futures exchanges worldwide. Market makers provide liquidity and play a critical role in price discovery, which contributes to the overall efficiency of the capital markets. Our willingness to make markets, commit capital and take risk in a broad range of products is crucial to our client relationships.
Our clients are primarily institutions that are professional market participants, including investment entities whose ultimate customers include individual investors investing for their retirement, buying insurance or putting aside surplus cash in a deposit account.
Through our global sales force, we maintain relationships with our clients, receiving orders and distributing investment research, trading ideas, market information and analysis. As a market maker, we provide prices to clients globally across thousands of products in all major asset classes and markets. At times we take the other side of transactions ourselves if a buyer or seller is not readily available and at other times we connect our clients to other parties who want to transact. Much of this connectivity between the firm and its clients is maintained on technology platforms and operates globally wherever and whenever markets are open for trading.
Institutional Client Services and our other businesses are supported by our Global Investment Research division, which, as of December 2010, provided fundamental research on more than 3,300 companies worldwide and over 45 national economies, as well as on industries, currencies and commodities.
Institutional Client Services generates revenues in three ways:
Institutional Client Services activities are organized by asset class and include both cash and derivative instruments. Cash refers to trading the underlying instrument (such as a stock, bond or barrel of oil). Derivative refers to instruments that derive their value from underlying asset prices, indices, reference rates and other inputs, or a combination of these factors (such as an option, which is the right or obligation to buy or sell a certain bond or stock index on a specified date in the future at a certain price, or an interest rate swap, which is the right to convert a fixed rate of interest into a floating rate or vice versa).
Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities Client Execution. Includes interest rate products, credit products, mortgages, currencies and commodities.
Equities. Includes equity client execution, commissions and fees, and securities services.
Equities Client Execution. We make markets in equity securities and equity-related products, including convertible securities, options, futures and over-the-counter (OTC) derivative instruments, on a global basis. As a principal, we facilitate client transactions by providing liquidity to our clients with large blocks of stocks or options, requiring the commitment of our capital. In addition, we engage in insurance activities where we reinsure and purchase portfolios of insurance risk and acquire pension liabilities.
We also structure and execute derivatives on indices, industry groups, financial measures and individual company stocks. We develop strategies and provide information about portfolio hedging and restructuring and asset allocation transactions for our clients. We also work with our clients to create specially tailored instruments to enable sophisticated investors to establish or liquidate investment positions or undertake hedging strategies. We are one of the leading participants in the trading and development of equity derivative instruments.
Our exchange-based market-making activities include making markets in stocks and exchange-traded funds. In the United States, we are one of the leading Designated Market Makers (DMMs) for stocks traded on the NYSE. For ETFs, we are registered market makers on NYSE Arca. In listed options, we are registered as a primary or lead market maker or otherwise make markets on the International Securities Exchange, the Chicago Board Options Exchange, NYSE Arca, the Boston Options Exchange, the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and NYSE Amex. In futures and options on futures, we are market makers on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade.
Commissions and Fees. We generate commissions and fees from executing and clearing institutional client transactions on major stock, options and futures exchanges worldwide. We increasingly provide our clients with access to electronic low-touch equity trading platforms, and electronic trades account for the majority of our equity trading activity. However, a majority of our net revenues in these activities continue to be derived from our traditional high-touch handling of more complex trades. We expect both types of activity to remain important.
Securities Services. Includes financing, securities lending and other prime brokerage services.
Investing & Lending
Our investing and lending activities, which are typically longer-term, include the firms investing and relationship lending activities across various asset classes, primarily including debt securities and loans, public and private equity securities, and real estate. These activities include investing directly in publicly and privately traded securities and also through certain investment funds that we manage. We also provide financing to our clients. We manage a diversified global portfolio of investments in equity and debt securities and other investments in privately negotiated transactions, leveraged buyouts, acquisitions and investments in funds managed by external parties.
ICBC. We have an investment in the ordinary shares of ICBC, the largest bank in China.
Equity Securities (excluding ICBC). We make corporate, real estate and infrastructure equity-related investments.
Debt Securities and Loans. We make corporate, real estate and infrastructure debt security-related investments. In addition, we provide credit to corporate clients through loan facilities and to high-net-worth individuals through secured loans.
Other. Our other investments primarily include our consolidated investment entities, which are entities we hold for investment purposes strictly for capital appreciation. These entities have a defined exit strategy and are engaged in activities that are not closely related to our principal businesses. We also invest directly in distressed assets, currencies, commodities and other assets, including power generation facilities.
Investment Management provides investment and wealth advisory services to help clients preserve and grow their financial assets. Our clients include institutions and high-net-worth individuals as well as retail investors, who access our products through a network of third-party distributors around the world.
We manage client assets across a broad range of asset classes and investment strategies, including equity, fixed income and alternative investments. Alternative investments primarily include hedge funds, private equity, real estate, currencies, commodities, and asset allocation strategies. Our investment offerings include those managed on a fiduciary basis by our portfolio managers as well as strategies managed by third-party managers. We offer our investments in a variety of structures, including separately managed
accounts, mutual funds, private partnerships and other commingled vehicles.
We also provide customized investment advisory solutions designed to address our clients investment needs. These solutions begin with identifying clients objectives and continue through portfolio construction, ongoing asset allocation and risk management and investment realization. We draw from a variety of third-party managers as well as our proprietary offerings to implement solutions for clients.
We supplement our investment advisory solutions for high-net-worth clients with wealth advisory services that include income and liability management, trust and estate planning, philanthropic giving and tax planning. We also use the firms global securities and derivatives market-making capabilities to address clients specific investment needs.
Management and Other Fees. The majority of revenues in management and other fees is comprised of asset-based management fees on client assets. The fees that we charge vary by asset class and are affected by investment performance as well as asset inflows and redemptions. Other fees we receive include financial counseling fees generated through our wealth advisory services and fees related to the administration of real estate assets.
Assets under management include only those client assets where we earn a fee for managing assets on a discretionary basis. This includes assets in our mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity funds and separately managed accounts for institutional and individual investors. Assets under management do not include the self-directed assets of our clients, including brokerage accounts, or interest-bearing deposits held through our bank depository institution subsidiaries.
Incentive Fees. In certain circumstances, we are also entitled to receive incentive fees based on a percentage of a funds or a separately managed accounts return, or when the return exceeds a specified benchmark or other performance targets. Such fees include overrides, which consist of the increased share of the income and gains derived primarily from our private equity and real estate funds when the return on a funds investments over the life of the fund exceeds certain threshold returns. Incentive fees are recognized only when all material contingencies are resolved.
Transaction Revenues. We receive commissions and net spreads for facilitating transactional activity in high-net-worth client accounts. In addition, we earn net interest income primarily associated with client deposits and margin lending activity undertaken by such clients.
The tables below present assets under management by asset class and by distribution channel and client category.
Business continuity and information security are high priorities for Goldman Sachs. Our Business Continuity Program has been developed to provide reasonable assurance of business continuity in the event of disruptions at the firms critical facilities and to comply with regulatory requirements, including those of FINRA. Because we are a bank holding company, our Business Continuity Program is also subject to review by the Federal Reserve Board. The key elements of the program are crisis management, people recovery facilities, business recovery, systems and data recovery, and process improvement. In the area of information security, we have developed and implemented a framework of principles, policies and technology to protect the information assets of the firm and our clients. Safeguards are applied to maintain the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information resources.
Management believes that a major strength and principal reason for the success of Goldman Sachs is the quality and dedication of our people and the shared sense of being part of a team. We strive to maintain a work environment that fosters professionalism, excellence, diversity, cooperation among our employees worldwide and high standards of business ethics.
Instilling the Goldman Sachs culture in all employees is a continuous process, in which training plays an important part. All employees are offered the opportunity to participate in education and periodic seminars that we sponsor at various locations throughout the world. Another important part of instilling the Goldman Sachs culture is our employee review process. Employees are reviewed by supervisors, co-workers and employees they supervise in a 360-degree review process that is integral to our team approach, and includes an evaluation of an employees performance with respect to risk management, compliance and diversity.
As of December 2010, we had 35,700 total staff, excluding staff at consolidated entities held for investment purposes. See Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Results of Operations Operating Expenses in Part II, Item 7 of this Form 10-K for additional information on our consolidated entities held for investment purposes.
The financial services industry and all of our businesses are intensely competitive, and we expect them to remain so. Our competitors are other entities that provide investment banking, securities and investment management services, as well as those entities that make investments in securities, commodities, derivatives, real estate, loans and other financial assets. These entities include brokers and dealers, investment banking firms, commercial banks, insurance companies, investment advisers, mutual funds, hedge funds, private equity funds and merchant banks. We compete with some entities globally and with others on a regional, product or niche basis. Our competition is based on a number of factors, including transaction execution, our products and services, innovation, reputation and price.
We also face intense competition in attracting and retaining qualified employees. Our ability to continue to compete effectively will depend upon our ability to attract new employees, retain and motivate our existing employees and to continue to compensate employees competitively amid intense public and regulatory scrutiny on the compensation practices of large financial institutions. Our pay practices and those of our principal competitors are subject to review by, and the standards of, the Federal Reserve Board and regulators outside the United States, including the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in the United Kingdom. See Regulation Banking Regulation and Regulation Compensation Practices below and Risk Factors Our businesses may be adversely affected if we are unable to hire and retain qualified employees in Part I, Item 1A of this Form 10-K for more information on the regulation of our compensation practices.
Over time, there has been substantial consolidation and convergence among companies in the financial services industry. This trend accelerated in recent years as the credit crisis caused numerous mergers and asset acquisitions among industry participants. Many commercial banks and other broad-based financial services firms have had the ability for some time to offer a wide range of products, from loans, deposit-taking and insurance to brokerage, asset management and investment banking services, which may enhance their competitive position. They also have had the ability to support investment banking and securities products with commercial banking, insurance and other financial services revenues in an effort to gain market share, which has resulted in pricing pressure in our investment banking and client execution
businesses and could result in pricing pressure in other of our businesses.
Moreover, we have faced, and expect to continue to face, pressure to retain market share by committing capital to businesses or transactions on terms that offer returns that may not be commensurate with their risks. In particular, corporate clients seek such commitments (such as agreements to participate in their commercial paper backstop or other loan facilities) from financial services firms in connection with investment banking and other assignments.
Consolidation and convergence have significantly increased the capital base and geographic reach of some of our competitors, and have also hastened the globalization of the securities and other financial services markets. As a result, we have had to commit capital to support our international operations and to execute large global transactions. To take advantage of some of our most significant challenges and opportunities, we will have to compete successfully with financial institutions that are larger and have more capital and that may have a stronger local presence and longer operating history outside the United States.
We have experienced intense price competition in some of our businesses in recent years. For example, over the past several years the increasing volume of trades executed electronically, through the internet and through alternative trading systems, has increased the pressure on trading commissions, in that commissions for low-touch electronic trading are generally lower than for high-touch non-electronic trading. It appears that this trend toward electronic and other low-touch, low-commission trading will continue. In addition, we believe that we will continue to experience competitive pressures in these and other areas in the future as some of our competitors seek to obtain market share by further reducing prices.
The provisions of the U.S. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) and other financial regulation could affect our competitive position to the extent that limitations on activities, increased fees and compliance costs or other regulatory requirements do not apply, or do not apply equally, to all of our competitors. The impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on our competitive position will depend to a large extent on the details of the required rulemaking, as discussed further under Regulation below.
As a participant in the banking, securities, futures and options and insurance industries, we are subject to extensive regulation worldwide. Regulatory bodies around the world are generally charged with safeguarding the integrity of the securities and other financial markets and with protecting the interests of the customers of market participants, including depositors in banking entities and the customers of broker-dealers. They are not, however, generally charged with protecting the interests of security holders.
The financial services industry has been the subject of intense regulatory scrutiny in recent years. Our businesses have been subject to increasing regulation in the United States and other countries, and we expect this trend to continue in the future. The Dodd-Frank Act, which was enacted in July 2010, significantly alters the framework within which we operate, including through the creation of a new systemic risk oversight body, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). The FSOC will oversee and coordinate the efforts of the primary U.S. financial regulatory agencies (including the Federal Reserve Board, the SEC, the CFTC and the FDIC) in establishing regulations to address financial stability concerns. The Dodd-Frank Act directs the FSOC to make recommendations to the Federal Reserve Board as to supervisory requirements and prudential standards applicable to systemically important financial institutions, including risk-based capital, leverage, liquidity and risk-management requirements. The Dodd-Frank Act mandates that the requirements applicable to systemically important financial institutions be more stringent than those applicable to other financial companies. Although the criteria for treatment as a systemically important financial institution have not yet been determined, it is probable that they will apply to our firm.
The implications of the Dodd-Frank Act for our businesses will depend to a large extent on the provisions of required future rulemaking by the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the SEC, the CFTC and other agencies, as well as the development of market practices and structures under the regime established by the legislation and the rules adopted pursuant to it, as discussed further throughout this section.
In September 2008, Group Inc. became a bank holding company under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 (BHC Act) and the Federal Reserve Board became the primary regulator of Group Inc., as a consolidated entity. In August 2009, Group Inc. became a financial holding company under amendments to the BHC Act effected by the U.S. Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (GLB Act).
As a bank holding company and a financial holding company under the BHC Act, Group Inc. is subject to supervision and examination by the Federal Reserve Board. Under the system of functional regulation established under the BHC Act, the Federal Reserve Board serves as the primary regulator of our consolidated organization, but generally defers to the primary regulators of our U.S. non-bank subsidiaries with respect to the activities of those subsidiaries. Such functionally regulated non-bank subsidiaries include broker-dealers registered with the SEC, such as our principal U.S. broker-dealer, Goldman, Sachs & Co. (GS&Co.), insurance companies regulated by state insurance authorities, investment advisers registered with the SEC with respect to their investment advisory activities and entities regulated by the CFTC with respect to certain futures-related activities.
The BHC Act generally restricts bank holding companies from engaging in business activities other than the business of banking and certain closely related activities. As a financial holding company, we may engage in a broader range of financial and related activities than are permissible for bank holding companies as long as we continue to meet the eligibility requirements for financial holding companies, including our U.S. depository institution subsidiaries (consisting of GS Bank USA and our national bank trust company subsidiary) maintaining their status as well-capitalized and well-managed as described under Prompt Corrective Action below. These activities include underwriting, dealing and making markets in securities, insurance underwriting and making investments in nonfinancial companies. In addition, we are permitted under the GLB Act to continue to engage in certain commodities activities in the United States that would otherwise be impermissible for bank holding companies, so long as the assets held pursuant to these activities do not equal 5% or more of our consolidated assets.
Beginning in July 2011, our financial holding company status will also depend on Group Inc.s maintaining its status as well-capitalized and well-managed.
As a bank holding company, we are required to obtain prior Federal Reserve Board approval before directly or indirectly acquiring more than 5% of any class of voting shares of any unaffiliated depository institution. In addition, as a bank holding company, we may generally engage in banking and other financial activities abroad, including investing in and owning non-U.S. banks, if those activities and investments do not exceed certain limits and, in some cases, if we have obtained the prior approval of the Federal Reserve Board.
We expect to face additional limitations on our activities upon implementation of those provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act referred to as the Volcker Rule, which will prohibit proprietary trading (other than for certain risk-mitigation activities) and limit the sponsorship of, and investment in, hedge funds and private equity funds by banking entities, including bank holding companies such as us. The extent of the additional limitations will depend on the details of agency rulemaking. The Volcker Rule provisions will take effect no later than July 2012, and companies will be required to come into compliance within two years after the effective date (subject to possible extensions).
Capital and Liquidity Requirements
As a bank holding company, we are subject to consolidated regulatory capital requirements administered by the Federal Reserve Board. GS Bank USA is subject to broadly similar capital requirements, as discussed below. Under the Federal Reserve Boards capital adequacy requirements and the regulatory framework for prompt corrective action that is applicable to GS Bank USA, Group Inc. and GS Bank USA must meet specific regulatory capital requirements that involve quantitative measures of assets, liabilities and certain off-balance-sheet items. The calculation of our capital levels and those of GS Bank USA, as well as GS Bank USAs prompt corrective action classification, are also subject to qualitative judgments by regulators.
Tier 1 Leverage and Basel I Capital Ratios. See Note 20 to the consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8 of this Form 10-K for information on our Tier 1 capital ratio, Tier 1 capital, total capital, risk-weighted assets and Tier 1 leverage ratio, and for a discussion of minimum required ratios.
Pending Changes in Capital Requirements. We are currently working to implement the requirements set out in the Federal Reserve Boards Capital Adequacy Guidelines for Bank Holding Companies: Internal Ratings-Based and Advanced Measurement Approaches, which are based on the advanced approaches under the Revised Framework for the International Convergence of Capital Measurement and Capital Standards issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (Basel Committee) as such requirements apply to us as a bank holding company (Basel 2). U.S. banking regulators have incorporated the Basel 2 framework into the existing risk-based capital requirements by requiring that internationally active banking organizations, such as us, transition to Basel 2 following the successful completion of a parallel run.
In addition, the Basel Committee has undertaken a program of substantial revisions to its capital guidelines. In particular, the changes in the Basel 2.5 guidelines will result in increased capital requirements for market risk. Additionally, the Basel 3 guidelines issued by the Basel Committee in December 2010 revise the definition of Tier 1 capital, introduce Tier 1 common equity as a regulatory metric, set new minimum capital ratios (including a new capital conservation buffer, which must be composed exclusively of Tier 1 common equity and will be in addition to the other capital ratios), introduce a Tier 1 leverage ratio within international guidelines for the first time, and make substantial revisions to the computation of risk-weighted assets for credit exposures. Implementation of the new requirements is expected to take place over an extended transition period, starting at the end of 2011 (for Basel 2.5) and end of 2012 (for Basel 3). Although the U.S. federal banking agencies have now issued proposed rules that are intended to implement certain aspects of the Basel 2.5 guidelines, they have not yet addressed all aspects of those guidelines or the Basel 3 changes. In addition, both the Basel Committee and U.S. banking regulators implementing the Dodd-Frank Act have indicated that they will impose more stringent capital standards on systemically important financial institutions. Therefore, the regulations ultimately applicable to us may be substantially different from those that have been published to date.
The Dodd-Frank Act will subject Goldman Sachs at a firmwide level to the same leverage and risk-based capital requirements that apply to depository institutions, and directs banking regulators to impose additional capital requirements, as discussed above. The Federal Reserve Board will be required to begin implementing the new leverage and risk-based capital regulation by January 2012. As a consequence of these changes, Tier 1 capital treatment for our junior subordinated debt issued to trusts and our cumulative preferred stock will be phased out over a three-year period beginning on January 1, 2013. The interaction between the Dodd-Frank Act and the Basel Committees proposed changes adds further uncertainty to our future capital requirements. For example, regulations implementing provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act are expected to subject us to a continuing floor of the Federal Reserve Boards regulatory requirements currently applicable to bank holding companies (Basel 1), which are based on the Capital Accord of the Basel Committee, in cases where Basel 2 or Basel 3 would otherwise permit lower capital requirements.
Liquidity Ratios under Basel 3. Historically, regulation and monitoring of bank and bank holding company liquidity has been addressed as a supervisory matter, both in the U.S. and internationally, without required formulaic measures. Basel 3 will require banks and bank holding companies to measure their liquidity against two specific liquidity tests that, although similar in some respects to liquidity measures historically applied by banks and regulators for management and supervisory purposes, will be required by regulation. One test, referred to as the liquidity coverage ratio, is designed to ensure that the banking entity maintains an adequate level of unencumbered high-quality liquid assets equal to the entitys expected net cash outflow for a 30-day time horizon (or, if greater, 25% of its expected total cash outflow) under an acute liquidity stress scenario. The other, referred to as the net stable funding ratio, is designed to promote more medium- and long-term funding of the assets and activities of banking entities over a one-year time horizon. These requirements may incent banking entities to increase their holdings of U.S. Treasury securities and other sovereign debt as a component of assets and increase the use of long-term debt as a funding source. The liquidity coverage ratio would be implemented subject to an observation period beginning in 2011, but would not be introduced as a requirement until January 1, 2015, and the net stable funding ratio would not be introduced as a requirement until January 1, 2018. These new standards are subject to further rulemaking and their terms may change before implementation.
Dividend payments by Group Inc. to its shareholders are subject to the oversight of the Federal Reserve Board. Under temporary guidance issued by the Federal Reserve Board in November 2010, the dividend policy of large bank holding companies, such as Goldman Sachs, is reviewed by the Federal Reserve Board based on capital plans and stress tests submitted by the bank holding company, and will be assessed against, among other things, the ability to achieve the Basel 3 capital ratio requirements referred to above as they are phased in by U.S. regulators and any potential impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on the companys risk profile, business strategy, corporate structure or capital adequacy. The Federal Reserves current guidance provides that, for large bank holding companies like us, dividend payout ratios exceeding 30% of after-tax net income will receive particularly close scrutiny.
Federal and state law imposes limitations on the payment of dividends by our depository institution subsidiaries to Group Inc. In general, the amount of dividends that may be paid by GS Bank USA or our national bank trust company subsidiary is limited to the lesser of the amounts calculated under a recent earnings test and an undivided profits test. Under the recent earnings test, a dividend may not be paid if the total of all dividends declared by the entity in any calendar year is in excess of the current years net income combined with the retained net income of the two preceding years, unless the entity obtains prior regulatory approval. Under the undivided profits test, a dividend may not be paid in excess of the entitys undivided profits (generally, accumulated net profits that have not been paid out as dividends or transferred to surplus). While GS Bank USA could have declared dividends of $4.63 billion to Group Inc. as of December 2010 in accordance with these limitations, the banking regulators have overriding authority to prohibit the payment of any dividends by GS Bank USA. In addition to the dividend restrictions described above, the banking regulators have authority to prohibit or to limit the payment of dividends by the banking organizations they supervise if, in the banking regulators opinion, payment of a dividend would constitute an unsafe or unsound practice in light of the financial condition of the banking organization.
In addition, certain of Group Inc.s non-bank subsidiaries are subject to separate regulatory limitations on dividends and distributions, including our broker-dealer and our insurance subsidiaries as described below.
Federal Reserve Board policy historically has required bank holding companies to act as a source of strength to their bank subsidiaries and to commit capital and financial resources to support those subsidiaries. The Dodd-Frank Act codifies this policy as a statutory requirement. This support may be required by the Federal Reserve Board at times when we might otherwise determine not to provide it. Capital loans by a bank holding company to a subsidiary bank are subordinate in right of payment to deposits and to certain other indebtedness of the subsidiary bank. In the event of a bank holding companys bankruptcy, any commitment by the bank holding company to a federal bank regulator to maintain the capital of a subsidiary bank will be assumed by the bankruptcy trustee and entitled to priority payment.
However, because the BHC Act provides for functional regulation of bank holding company activities by various regulators, the BHC Act prohibits the Federal Reserve Board from requiring payment by a holding company or subsidiary to a depository institution if the functional regulator of the payor entity objects to such payment. In such a case, the Federal Reserve Board could instead require the divestiture of the depository institution and impose operating restrictions pending the divestiture.
Each insured depository institution controlled (as defined in the BHC Act) by the same bank holding company can be held liable to the FDIC for any loss incurred, or reasonably expected to be incurred, by the FDIC due to the default of any other insured depository institution controlled by that holding company and for any assistance provided by the FDIC to any of those depository institutions that is in danger of default. Such a cross-guarantee claim against a depository institution is generally superior in right of payment to claims of the holding company and its affiliates against that depository institution. At this time, we control only one insured depository institution for this purpose, namely GS Bank USA. However, if, in the future, we were to control other insured depository institutions, the cross-guarantee would apply to all such insured depository institutions.
Our compensation practices are subject to oversight by the Federal Reserve Board and, with respect to some of our subsidiaries and employees, by other financial regulatory bodies worldwide. The scope and content of compensation regulation in the financial industry are continuing to develop, and we expect that these policies will evolve over a number of years.
The Dodd-Frank Act requires the U.S. financial regulators, including the Federal Reserve Board, to establish joint regulations or guidelines prohibiting incentive-based payment arrangements at specified regulated entities having at least $1 billion in total assets (which would include Group Inc. and some of its depositary institution, broker-dealer and investment advisor subsidiaries) that encourage inappropriate risks by providing an executive officer, employee, director or principal shareholder with excessive compensation, fees, or benefits or that could lead to material financial loss to the entity. In addition, these regulators must establish regulations or guidelines requiring enhanced disclosure to regulators of incentive-based compensation arrangements. The initial version of these regulations was proposed by the FDIC in February 2011 and the regulations may become effective before the end of 2011. If the regulations are adopted in the form initially proposed, they will impose limitations on the manner in which we may structure compensation for our executives.
In June 2010, the Federal Reserve Board and other financial regulators jointly issued guidance designed to ensure that incentive compensation arrangements at banking organizations take into account risk and are consistent with safe and sound practices. The guidance sets forth the following three key principles with respect to incentive compensation arrangements: the arrangements should provide employees incentives that appropriately balance risk and financial results in a manner that does not encourage employees to expose their organizations to imprudent risk; the arrangements should be compatible with effective controls and risk management; and the arrangements should be supported by strong corporate governance. These three principles are incorporated into the proposed joint compensation regulations under Dodd-Frank, discussed above. In addition, the Federal Reserve Board has conducted a review of the incentive compensation policies and practices of a number of large, complex banking organizations, including us. The June 2010 guidance provides that supervisory findings with respect to incentive compensation will be incorporated, as appropriate, into the organizations supervisory ratings, which can affect its ability to make acquisitions or perform other actions. The guidance also provides that enforcement actions may be taken against a banking organization if its incentive compensation arrangements or related risk management, control or governance processes pose a risk to the organizations safety and soundness.
The Financial Stability Board, established at the direction of the leaders of the Group of 20, has released standards for implementing certain compensation principles for banks and other financial companies designed to encourage sound compensation practices. These standards are to be implemented by local regulators. In July 2010, the European Parliament adopted amendments to the Capital Requirements Directive designed to implement the Financial Stability Boards compensation standards within the EU. Regulators in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Germany, have proposed or adopted compensation policies or regulations applicable to financial institutions pursuant to the Capital Requirements Directive. These are in addition to the proposals and guidance issued by U.S. financial regulators discussed above.
Our subsidiary, GS Bank USA, an FDIC-insured, New York State-chartered bank and a member of the Federal Reserve System and the FDIC, is regulated by the Federal Reserve Board and the New York State Banking Department and is subject to minimum capital requirements (described further below) that are calculated in a manner similar to those applicable to bank holding companies. A number of our activities are conducted partially or entirely through GS Bank USA and its subsidiaries, including: origination of and market making in bank loans; interest rate, credit, currency and other derivatives; leveraged finance; commercial and residential mortgage origination, trading and servicing; structured finance; and agency lending, custody and hedge fund administration services. These activities are subject to regulation by the Federal Reserve Board, the New York State Banking Department and the FDIC.
The Dodd-Frank Act contains derivative push-out provisions that, beginning in July 2012, will essentially prevent us from conducting certain swaps-related activities through GS Bank USA or another insured depository institution subsidiary, subject to exceptions for certain interest rate and currency swaps and for hedging or risk mitigation activities directly related to the banks business. These precluded activities may be conducted elsewhere within the firm, subject to certain requirements.
Transactions between GS Bank USA and Group Inc. and its subsidiaries and affiliates are regulated by the Federal Reserve Board. These regulations limit the types and amounts of transactions (including loans to and credit extensions from GS Bank USA) that may take place and generally require those transactions to be on an arms-length basis. These regulations generally do not apply to transactions between GS Bank USA and its subsidiaries. The Dodd-Frank Act significantly expands the coverage and scope of the regulations that limit affiliate transactions within a banking organization, including coverage of the credit exposure on derivative transactions, repurchase and reverse repurchase agreements, securities borrowing and lending transactions, and transactions with sponsored hedge funds and private equity funds.
In November 2008, Group Inc. transferred assets and operations to GS Bank USA. In connection with this transfer, Group Inc. entered into a guarantee agreement with GS Bank USA whereby Group Inc. agreed to (i) purchase from GS Bank USA certain transferred assets (other than derivatives and mortgage servicing rights) or reimburse GS Bank USA for certain losses relating to those assets; (ii) reimburse GS Bank USA for credit-related losses from assets transferred to GS Bank USA; (iii) protect GS Bank USA or reimburse it for certain losses arising from derivatives and mortgage servicing rights transferred to GS Bank USA; and (iv) pledge collateral to GS Bank USA.
The Dodd-Frank Act will require us to prepare and provide to regulators a resolution plan (a so-called living will) that must, among other things, ensure that our depository institution subsidiaries are adequately protected from risks arising from our other subsidiaries. The establishment and maintenance of this resolution plan may, as a practical matter, present additional constraints on our entity structure and transactions among our subsidiaries.
GS Bank USA accepts deposits, and those deposits have the benefit of FDIC insurance up to the applicable limits. The FDICs Deposit Insurance Fund is funded by assessments on insured depository institutions, such as GS Bank USA, and these assessments are currently based on the risk category of an institution and the amount of insured deposits that it holds. The FDIC required all insured depository institutions to prepay estimated assessments for all of 2010, 2011 and 2012 on December 30, 2009. The FDIC may increase or decrease the assessment rate schedule on a semi-annual basis. In accordance with the Dodd-Frank Act, the FDIC amended its regulations, effective April 1, 2011, to base insurance assessments on the average total consolidated assets less the average tangible equity of the insured depository institution during the assessment period.
The U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 (FDICIA), among other things, requires the federal banking agencies to take prompt corrective action in respect of depository institutions that do not meet specified capital requirements. FDICIA establishes five capital categories for FDIC-insured banks: well-capitalized, adequately capitalized, undercapitalized, significantly undercapitalized and critically undercapitalized.
A depository institution is generally deemed to be well-capitalized, the highest category, if it has a Tier 1 capital ratio of at least 6%, a total capital ratio of at least 10% and a Tier 1 leverage ratio of at least 5%. In connection with the November 2008 asset transfer described under Transactions with Affiliates below, GS Bank USA agreed with the Federal Reserve Board to maintain minimum capital ratios in excess of these well-capitalized levels.
See Note 20 to the consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8 of this Form 10-K for information on the calculation of GS Bank USAs capital ratios under Basel 1 and for a discussion of minimum required ratios.
GS Bank USA computes its capital ratios in accordance with the regulatory capital requirements currently applicable to state member banks, which are based on Basel 1 as implemented by the Federal Reserve Board. An institution may be downgraded to, or deemed to be in, a capital category that is lower than is indicated by its capital ratios if it is determined to be in an unsafe or unsound condition or if it receives an unsatisfactory examination rating with respect to certain matters. FDICIA imposes progressively more restrictive constraints on operations, management and capital distributions, as the capital category of an institution
declines. Failure to meet the capital requirements could also subject a depository institution to capital raising requirements. Ultimately, critically undercapitalized institutions are subject to the appointment of a receiver or conservator.
The prompt corrective action regulations apply only to depository institutions and not to bank holding companies such as Group Inc. However, the Federal Reserve Board is authorized to take appropriate action at the holding company level, based upon the undercapitalized status of the holding companys depository institution subsidiaries. In certain instances relating to an undercapitalized depository institution subsidiary, the bank holding company would be required to guarantee the performance of the undercapitalized subsidiarys capital restoration plan and might be liable for civil money damages for failure to fulfill its commitments on that guarantee. Furthermore, in the event of the bankruptcy of the holding company, the guarantee would take priority over the holding companys general unsecured creditors.
Insolvency of an Insured Depository Institution or a Bank Holding Company
If the FDIC is appointed the conservator or receiver of an insured depository institution such as GS Bank USA, upon its insolvency or in certain other events, the FDIC has the power:
In addition, under federal law, the claims of holders of deposit liabilities and certain claims for administrative expenses against an insured depository institution would be afforded a priority over other general unsecured claims against such an institution, including claims of debt holders of the institution, in the liquidation or other resolution of such an institution by any receiver. As a result, whether or not the FDIC ever sought to repudiate any debt obligations of GS Bank USA, the debt holders would be treated differently from, and could receive, if anything, substantially less than, the depositors of the depository institution.
The Dodd-Frank Act creates a resolution regime for systemically important non-bank financial companies, including bank holding companies and their affiliates, under which the FDIC may be appointed receiver to liquidate the entity. This resolution authority was based on the FDIC resolution model for depository institutions, with certain modifications to reflect differences between depository institutions and non-bank financial companies and to reduce disparities between the treatment of creditors claims under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code and in an orderly liquidation authority proceeding compared to those that would exist under the resolution model for depository institutions.
Group Inc.s two limited purpose trust company subsidiaries are not permitted to and do not accept deposits or make loans (other than as incidental to their trust activities) and, as a result, are not insured by the FDIC. The Goldman Sachs Trust Company, N.A., a national banking association that is limited to fiduciary activities, is regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and is a member bank of the Federal Reserve System. The Goldman Sachs Trust Company of Delaware, a Delaware limited purpose trust company, is regulated by the Office of the Delaware State Bank Commissioner.
Goldman Sachs broker-dealer subsidiaries are subject to regulations that cover all aspects of the securities business, including sales methods, trade practices, use and safekeeping of clients funds and securities, capital structure, recordkeeping, the financing of clients purchases, and the conduct of directors, officers and employees. In the United States, the SEC is the federal agency responsible for the administration of the federal securities laws. GS&Co. is registered as a broker-dealer, a municipal advisor and an investment adviser with the SEC and as a broker-dealer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Self-regulatory organizations, such as FINRA and the NYSE, adopt rules that apply to, and examine, broker-dealers such as GS&Co.
In addition, state securities and other regulators also have regulatory or oversight authority over GS&Co. Similarly, our businesses are also subject to regulation by various non-U.S. governmental and regulatory bodies and self-regulatory authorities in virtually all countries where we have offices. Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing, L.P. (GSEC) and one of its subsidiaries are registered U.S. broker-dealers and are
regulated by the SEC, the NYSE and FINRA. Goldman Sachs Financial Markets, L.P. is registered with the SEC as an OTC derivatives dealer and conducts certain OTC derivatives activities.
The commodity futures and commodity options industry in the United States is subject to regulation under the U.S. Commodity Exchange Act (CEA). The CFTC is the federal agency charged with the administration of the CEA. Several of Goldman Sachs subsidiaries, including GS&Co. and GSEC, are registered with the CFTC and act as futures commission merchants, commodity pool operators or commodity trading advisors and are subject to CEA regulations. The rules and regulations of various self-regulatory organizations, such as the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, other futures exchanges and the National Futures Association, also govern the commodity futures and commodity options activities of these entities.
For a discussion of net capital requirements applicable to GS&Co. and GSEC, see Note 20 to the consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8 of this Form 10-K.
Our exchange-based market-making activities are subject to extensive regulation by a number of securities exchanges. As a DMM on the NYSE and as a market maker on other exchanges, we are required to maintain orderly markets in the securities to which we are assigned. Under the NYSEs DMM rules, this may require us to supply liquidity to these markets in certain circumstances.
J. Aron & Company is authorized by the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to sell wholesale physical power at market-based rates. As a FERC-authorized power marketer, J. Aron & Company is subject to regulation under the U.S. Federal Power Act and FERC regulations and to the oversight of FERC. As a result of our investing activities, GS&Co. is also an exempt holding company under the U.S. Public Utility Holding Company Act of 2005 and applicable FERC rules.
In addition, as a result of our power-related and commodities activities, we are subject to extensive and evolving energy, environmental and other governmental laws and regulations, as discussed under Risk Factors Our commodities activities, particularly our power generation interests and our physical commodities activities, subject us to extensive regulation, potential catastrophic events and environmental, reputational and other risks that may expose us to significant liabilities and costs in Part I, Item 1A of this Form 10-K.
The Dodd-Frank Act will result in additional regulation of our broker-dealer and regulated subsidiaries in a number of respects. The legislation calls for the imposition of expanded standards of care by market participants in dealing with clients and customers, including by providing the SEC with authority to adopt rules establishing fiduciary duties for broker-dealers and directing the SEC to examine and improve sales practices and disclosure by broker-dealers and investment advisers. The Dodd-Frank Act also contains provisions designed to increase transparency in over-the-counter derivatives markets by requiring the registration of all swap dealers and security-based swap dealers, and the clearing and execution of swaps through regulated facilities (subject to limited exceptions, including swaps with non-financial end users and swaps that are not cleared by a clearing agency). Furthermore, federal banking agencies are required under the Dodd-Frank Act to develop rules whereby anyone who organizes or initiates an asset-backed security transaction must retain a portion (generally, at least five percent) of any credit risk that the person conveys to a third party.
Our U.S. insurance subsidiaries are subject to state insurance regulation and oversight in the states in which they are domiciled and in the other states in which they are licensed, and Group Inc. is subject to oversight as an insurance holding company in states where our insurance subsidiaries are domiciled. State insurance regulations limit the ability of our insurance subsidiaries to pay dividends to Group Inc. in certain circumstances, and could require regulatory approval for any change in control of Group Inc., which may include control of 10% or more of our voting stock. In addition, a number of our other activities, including our lending and mortgage activities, require us to obtain licenses, adhere to applicable regulations and be subject to the oversight of various regulators in the states in which we conduct these activities.
The U.S. Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), as amended by the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 (PATRIOT Act), contains anti-money laundering and financial transparency laws and mandated the implementation of various regulations applicable to all financial institutions, including standards for verifying client identification at account opening, and obligations to monitor client transactions and report suspicious activities. Through these and other provisions, the BSA and the PATRIOT Act seek to promote the identification of parties that may be involved in terrorism, money laundering or other suspicious activities. Anti-money laundering laws outside the United States contain some similar
provisions. The obligation of financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, to identify their clients, to monitor for and report suspicious transactions, to respond to requests for information by regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies, and to share information with other financial institutions, has required the implementation and maintenance of internal practices, procedures and controls that have increased, and may continue to increase, our costs, and any failure with respect to our programs in this area could subject us to substantial liability and regulatory fines.
Goldman Sachs provides investment services in and from the United Kingdom under the regulation of the FSA. Goldman Sachs International (GSI), our regulated U.K. broker-dealer, is subject to the capital requirements imposed by the FSA. Other subsidiaries, including Goldman Sachs International Bank (GSIB), our regulated U.K. bank, are also regulated by the FSA. As of December 2010, GSI and GSIB were in compliance with the FSA capital requirements.
Goldman Sachs Bank (Europe) PLC (GS Bank Europe), our regulated Irish bank, is subject to minimum capital requirements imposed by the Central Bank of Ireland. As of December 2010, this bank was in compliance with all regulatory capital requirements. Group Inc. has issued a general guarantee of the obligations of this bank.
Various other Goldman Sachs entities are regulated by the banking, insurance and securities regulatory authorities of the European countries in which they operate, including, among others, the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) and the Bundesbank in Germany, the Autorité de Contrôle Prudentiel and the Autorité des Marchés Financiers in France, Banca dItalia and the Commissione Nazionale per le Società e la Borsa (CONSOB) in Italy, the Federal Financial Markets Service and the Central Bank of the Russian Federation in Russia and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority. Certain Goldman Sachs entities are also regulated by the European securities, derivatives and commodities exchanges of which they are members.
The investment services that are subject to oversight by the FSA and other regulators within the European Union (EU) are regulated in accordance with national laws, many of which implement EU directives requiring, among other things, compliance with certain capital adequacy standards, customer protection requirements and market conduct and trade reporting rules. These standards, requirements and rules are generally implemented in a similar manner, under the same directives, throughout the EU.
The EU has adopted risk retention requirements applicable to asset-backed security offerings similar to those required under the Dodd-Frank Act, as well as enhanced disclosure requirements applicable to such offerings.
Goldman Sachs Japan Co., Ltd. (GSJCL), our regulated Japanese broker-dealer, is subject to the capital requirements imposed by Japans Financial Services Agency. As of December 2010, GSJCL was in compliance with its capital adequacy requirements. GSJCL is also regulated by the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the Osaka Securities Exchange, the Tokyo Financial Exchange, the Japan Securities Dealers Association, the Tokyo Commodity Exchange and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Japan.
Also in Asia, the Securities and Futures Commission in Hong Kong, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, the Korean Financial Supervisory Service, the Reserve Bank of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India, among others, regulate various of our subsidiaries and also have capital standards and other requirements comparable to the rules of the SEC.
Various Goldman Sachs entities are regulated by the banking and regulatory authorities in countries in which Goldman Sachs operates, including, among others, Brazil and Dubai. In addition, certain of our insurance subsidiaries are regulated by the FSA and certain are regulated by the Bermuda Monetary Authority.
The U.S. and non-U.S. government agencies, regulatory bodies and self-regulatory organizations, as well as state securities commissions and other state regulators in the United States, are empowered to conduct administrative proceedings that can result in censure, fine, the issuance of cease and desist orders, or the suspension or expulsion of a broker-dealer or its directors, officers or employees. From time to time, our subsidiaries have been subject to investigations and proceedings, and sanctions have been imposed for infractions of various regulations relating to our activities.
The SEC and FINRA have rules governing research analysts, including rules imposing restrictions on the interaction between equity research analysts and investment banking personnel at member securities firms. Various non-U.S. jurisdictions have imposed both substantive and disclosure-based requirements with respect to research and may impose additional regulations.
Our investment management business is subject to significant regulation in numerous jurisdictions around the world relating to, among other things, the safeguarding of client assets and our management of client funds.
As discussed above, many of our subsidiaries are subject to regulatory capital requirements in jurisdictions throughout the world. Subsidiaries not subject to separate regulation may hold capital to satisfy local tax guidelines, rating agency requirements or internal policies, including policies concerning the minimum amount of capital a subsidiary should hold based upon its underlying risk.
Certain of our businesses are subject to compliance with regulations enacted by U.S. federal and state governments, the EU or other jurisdictions and/or enacted by various regulatory organizations or exchanges relating to the privacy of the information of clients, employees or others, and any failure to comply with these regulations could expose us to liability and/or reputational damage.
Our internet address is www.gs.com and the investor relations section of our web site is located at www.gs.com/shareholders. We make available free of charge through the investor relations section of our web site, annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the U.S. Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act), as well as proxy statements, as soon as reasonably practicable after we electronically file such material with, or furnish it to, the SEC. Also posted on our web site, and available in print upon request of any shareholder to our Investor Relations Department, are our certificate of incorporation and by-laws, charters for our Audit Committee, Risk Committee, Compensation Committee, and Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee, our Policy Regarding Director Independence Determinations, our Policy on Reporting of Concerns Regarding Accounting and Other Matters, our Corporate Governance Guidelines and our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics governing our directors, officers and employees. Within the time period required by the SEC, we will post on our web site any amendment to the Code of Business Conduct and Ethics and any waiver applicable to any executive officer, director or senior financial officer (as defined in the Code).
In addition, our web site includes information concerning purchases and sales of our equity securities by our executive officers and directors, as well as disclosure relating to certain non-GAAP financial measures (as defined in the SECs Regulation G) that we may make public orally, telephonically, by webcast, by broadcast or by similar means from time to time.
Our Investor Relations Department can be contacted at The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., 200 West Street, 29th Floor, New York, New York 10282, Attn: Investor Relations, telephone: 212-902-0300, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have included or incorporated by reference in this Form 10-K, and from time to time our management may make, statements that may constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the U.S. Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements are not historical facts, but instead represent only our
beliefs regarding future events, many of which, by their nature, are inherently uncertain and outside our control. These statements include statements other than historical information or statements of current condition and may relate to our future plans and objectives and results, among other things, and may also include our belief regarding the effect of changes to the capital and leverage rules applicable to bank holding companies, the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on our businesses and operations, and various legal proceedings as set forth under Legal Proceedings in Note 30 to the consolidated financial statements in Part II, Item 8 of this Form 10-K, as well as statements about the objectives and effectiveness of our risk management and liquidity policies, statements about trends in or growth opportunities for our businesses, statements about our future status, activities or reporting under U.S. or non-U.S. banking and financial regulation, and statements about our investment banking transaction backlog.
By identifying these statements for you in this manner, we are alerting you to the possibility that our actual results and financial condition may differ, possibly materially, from the anticipated results and financial condition indicated in these forward-looking statements. Important factors that could cause our actual results and financial condition to differ from those indicated in the forward-looking statements include, among others, those discussed below and under Risk Factors in Part I, Item 1A of this Form 10-K.
In the case of statements about our investment banking transaction backlog, such statements are subject to the risk that the terms of these transactions may be modified or that they may not be completed at all; therefore, the net revenues, if any, that we actually earn from these transactions may differ, possibly materially, from those currently expected. Important factors that could result in a modification of the terms of a transaction or a transaction not being completed include, in the case of underwriting transactions, a decline or continued weakness in general economic conditions, outbreak of hostilities, volatility in the securities markets generally or an adverse development with respect to the issuer of the securities and, in the case of financial advisory transactions, a decline in the securities markets, an inability to obtain adequate financing, an adverse development with respect to a party to the transaction or a failure to obtain a required regulatory approval. For a discussion of other important factors that could adversely affect our investment banking transactions, see Risk Factors in Part I, Item 1A of this Form 10-K.
We face a variety of risks that are substantial and inherent in our businesses, including market, liquidity, credit, operational, legal, regulatory and reputational risks. The following are some of the more important factors that could affect our businesses.
Our businesses have been and may continue to be adversely affected by conditions in the global financial markets and economic conditions generally.
Our businesses, by their nature, do not produce predictable earnings, and all of our businesses are materially affected by conditions in the global financial markets and economic conditions generally. In the past several years, these conditions have changed suddenly and, for a period of time, very negatively. In 2008 and through early 2009, the financial services industry and the securities markets generally were materially and adversely affected by significant declines in the values of nearly all asset classes and by a serious lack of liquidity.
Since 2008, governments, regulators and central banks in the United States and worldwide have taken numerous steps to increase liquidity and to restore investor and public confidence. In addition, there are numerous legislative and regulatory actions that have been taken to deal with what regulators, politicians and others believe to be the root causes of the financial crisis, including laws and regulations relating to financial institution capital requirements and compensation practices, restrictions on the type of activities in which financial institutions are permitted to engage, and generally increased regulatory scrutiny. In some cases, additional taxes have been (or have been proposed to be) imposed on certain financial institutions. Many of the regulations that are required to implement recently adopted legislation (including the Dodd-Frank Act) are still being drafted or are not yet in effect; therefore, the exact impact that these regulations will have on our businesses, results of operations and cash flows is presently unclear.
Business activity across a wide range of industries and regions has been greatly reduced and many companies were, and some continue to be, in serious difficulty due to reduced consumer spending and low levels of liquidity in the credit markets. National and local governments are facing difficult financial conditions due to significant reductions in tax revenues, particularly from corporate and personal income taxes, as well as increased outlays for unemployment benefits due to high unemployment levels and the cost of stimulus programs.
Declines in asset values, the lack of liquidity, reduced volatility, general uncertainty about economic and market activities and a lack of consumer, investor and CEO confidence have negatively impacted many of our businesses.
Our financial performance is highly dependent on the environment in which our businesses operate. A favorable business environment is generally characterized by, among other factors, high global gross domestic product growth, transparent, liquid and efficient capital markets, low inflation, high business and investor confidence, stable geopolitical conditions, and strong business earnings. Unfavorable or uncertain economic and market conditions can be caused by: declines in economic growth, business activity or investor or business confidence; limitations on the availability or increases in the cost of credit and capital; increases in inflation, interest rates, exchange rate volatility, default rates or the price of basic commodities; outbreaks of hostilities or other geopolitical instability; corporate, political or other scandals that reduce investor confidence in capital markets; natural disasters or pandemics; or a combination of these or other factors.
The business environment continued to improve during 2010, although there were several periods of market disruption, but there can be no assurance that these conditions will continue in the near or long term. If they do not, our results of operations may be adversely affected.
Our businesses have been and may be adversely affected by declining asset values. This is particularly true for those businesses in which we have net long positions, receive fees based on the value of assets managed, or receive or post collateral.
Many of our businesses have net long positions in debt securities, loans, derivatives, mortgages, equities (including private equity and real estate) and most other asset classes. These include positions we take when we act as a principal to facilitate our clients activities, including our exchange-based market-making activities, or commit large amounts of capital to maintain positions in interest rate and credit products, as well as through our currencies, commodities and equities activities. Because nearly all of these investing, lending and market-making positions are marked-to-market on a daily basis, declines in asset values directly and immediately impact our earnings, unless we have effectively hedged our exposures to such declines. In certain circumstances (particularly in the case of leveraged loans and private equities or other securities that are not freely tradable or lack established and liquid trading markets), it may not be possible or economic to hedge such exposures and to the extent that we do so the hedge may be ineffective or may greatly reduce our ability to profit from increases in the values of the assets. Sudden declines and significant volatility in the prices of assets may substantially curtail or eliminate the trading markets for certain assets, which may make it very difficult to sell, hedge or value such assets. The inability to sell or effectively hedge assets reduces our ability to limit losses in such positions and the difficulty in valuing assets may require us to maintain additional capital and increase our funding costs.
In our exchange-based market-making activities, we are obligated by stock exchange rules to maintain an orderly market, including by purchasing shares in a declining market. In markets where asset values are declining and in volatile markets, this results in losses and an increased need for liquidity.
We receive asset-based management fees based on the value of our clients portfolios or investment in funds managed by us and, in some cases, we also receive incentive fees based on increases in the value of such investments. Declines in asset values reduce the value of our clients portfolios or fund assets, which in turn reduce the fees we earn for managing such assets.
We post collateral to support our obligations and receive collateral to support the obligations of our clients and counterparties in connection with our client execution businesses. When the value of the assets posted as collateral declines, the party posting the collateral may need to provide additional collateral or, if possible, reduce its trading position. A classic example of such a situation is a margin call in connection with a brokerage account. Therefore, declines in the value of asset classes used as collateral mean that either the cost of funding positions is increased or the size of positions is decreased. If we are the party providing collateral, this can increase our costs and reduce our profitability and if we are the party receiving collateral, this can also reduce our profitability by reducing the level of business done with our clients and counterparties. In addition, volatile or less liquid markets increase the difficulty of valuing assets which can lead to costly and time-consuming disputes over asset values and the level of required collateral, as well as increased credit risk to the recipient of the collateral due to delays in receiving adequate collateral.
Our businesses have been and may be adversely affected by disruptions in the credit markets, including reduced access to credit and higher costs of obtaining credit.
Widening credit spreads, as well as significant declines in the availability of credit, have in the past adversely affected our ability to borrow on a secured and unsecured basis and may do so in the future. We fund ourselves on an unsecured basis by issuing long-term debt, promissory notes and commercial paper, by accepting deposits at our bank subsidiaries or by obtaining bank loans or lines of credit. We seek to finance many of our assets on a secured basis, including by entering into repurchase agreements. Any disruptions in the credit markets may make it harder and more expensive to obtain funding for our businesses. If our available funding is limited or we are forced to fund our operations at a higher cost, these conditions may require us to curtail our business activities and increase our cost of funding, both of which could reduce our profitability, particularly in our businesses that involve investing, lending and market making.
Our clients engaging in mergers and acquisitions often rely on access to the secured and unsecured credit markets to finance their transactions. A lack of available credit or an increased cost of credit can adversely affect the size, volume and timing of our clients merger and acquisition transactions particularly large transactions and adversely affect our financial advisory and underwriting businesses.
In addition, we may incur significant unrealized gains or losses due solely to changes in our credit spreads or those of third parties, as these changes may affect the fair value of our derivative instruments and the debt securities that we hold or issue.
Our market-making activities have been and may be affected by changes in the levels of market volatility.
Certain of our market-making activities depend on market volatility to provide trading and arbitrage opportunities to our clients, and decreases in volatility may reduce these opportunities and adversely affect the results of these activities. On the other hand, increased volatility, while it can increase trading volumes and spreads, also increases risk as measured by Value-at-Risk (VaR) and may expose us to increased risks in connection with our market-making activities or cause us to reduce our market-making positions in order to avoid increasing our VaR. Limiting the size of our market-making positions can adversely affect our profitability, even though spreads are widening and we may earn more on each trade. In periods when volatility is increasing, but asset values are declining significantly, it may not be possible to sell assets at all or it may only be possible to do so at steep discounts. In such circumstances we may be forced to either take on additional risk or to incur losses in order to decrease our VaR. In addition, increases in volatility increase the level of our risk weighted assets and increase our capital requirements, both of which in turn increase our funding costs.
Our investment banking, client execution and investment management businesses have been adversely affected and may continue to be adversely affected by market uncertainty or lack of confidence among investors and CEOs due to general declines in economic activity and other unfavorable economic, geopolitical or market conditions.
Our investment banking business has been and may continue to be adversely affected by market conditions. Poor economic conditions and other adverse geopolitical conditions can adversely affect and have adversely affected investor and CEO confidence, resulting in significant industry-wide declines in the size and number of underwritings and of financial advisory transactions, which could have an adverse effect on our revenues and our profit margins. In particular, because a significant portion of our investment banking revenues is derived from our participation in large transactions, a decline in the number of large transactions would adversely affect our investment banking business.
In certain circumstances, market uncertainty or general declines in market or economic activity may affect our client execution businesses by decreasing levels of overall activity or by decreasing volatility, but at other times market uncertainty and even declining economic activity may result in higher trading volumes or higher spreads or both.
Market uncertainty, volatility and adverse economic conditions, as well as declines in asset values, may cause our clients to transfer their assets out of our funds or other products or their brokerage accounts and result in reduced net revenues, principally in our investment management business. To the extent that clients do not withdraw their funds, they may invest them in products that generate less fee income.
Our investment management business may be affected by the poor investment performance of our investment products.
Poor investment returns in our investment management business, due to either general market conditions or underperformance (relative to our competitors or to benchmarks) by funds or accounts that we manage or investment products that we design or sell, affects our ability to retain existing assets and to attract new clients or additional assets from existing clients. This could affect the management and incentive fees that we earn on assets under management or the commissions that we earn for selling other investment products, such as structured notes or derivatives.
We may incur losses as a result of ineffective risk management processes and strategies.
We seek to monitor and control our risk exposure through a risk and control framework encompassing a variety of separate but complementary financial, credit, operational, compliance and legal reporting systems, internal controls, management review processes and other mechanisms. Our risk management process seeks to balance our ability to profit from market-making, investing or lending positions with our exposure to potential losses. While we employ a broad and diversified set of risk monitoring and risk mitigation techniques, those techniques and the judgments that accompany their application cannot anticipate every economic and financial outcome or the specifics and timing of such outcomes. Thus, we may, in the course of our activities, incur losses. Market conditions in recent years have involved unprecedented dislocations and highlight the limitations inherent in using historical data to manage risk.
The models that we use to assess and control our risk exposures reflect assumptions about the degrees of correlation or lack thereof among prices of various asset classes or other market indicators. In times of market stress or other unforeseen circumstances, such as occurred during 2008 and early 2009, previously uncorrelated indicators may become correlated, or conversely previously correlated indicators may move in different directions. These types of market movements have at times limited the effectiveness of our hedging strategies and have caused us to incur significant losses, and they may do so in the future. These changes in correlation can be exacerbated where other market participants are using risk or trading models with assumptions or algorithms that are similar to ours. In these and other cases, it may be difficult to reduce our risk positions due to the activity of other market participants or widespread market
dislocations, including circumstances where asset values are declining significantly or no market exists for certain assets.
To the extent that we have positions through our market-making or origination activities or we make investments directly through our investing activities in securities, including private equity, that do not have an established liquid trading market or are otherwise subject to restrictions on sale or hedging, we may not be able to reduce our positions and therefore reduce our risk associated with such positions. In addition, we invest our own capital in private equity, debt, real estate and hedge funds that we manage and limitations on our ability to withdraw some or all of our investments in these funds, whether for legal, reputational or other reasons, may make it more difficult for us to control the risk exposures relating to these investments.
For a further discussion of our risk management policies and procedures, see Managements Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations Risk Management in Part II, Item 7 of this Form 10-K.
Our liquidity, profitability and businesses may be adversely affected by an inability to access the debt capital markets or to sell assets or by a reduction in our credit ratings or by an increase in our credit spreads.
Liquidity is essential to our businesses. Our liquidity may be impaired by an inability to access secured and/or unsecured debt markets, an inability to access funds from our subsidiaries, an inability to sell assets or redeem our investments, or unforeseen outflows of cash or collateral. This situation may arise due to circumstances that we may be unable to control, such as a general market disruption or an operational problem that affects third parties or us, or even by the perception among market participants that we, or other market participants, are experiencing greater liquidity risk.
The financial instruments that we hold and the contracts to which we are a party are complex, as we employ structured products to benefit our clients and ourselves, and these complex structured products often do not have readily available markets to access in times of liquidity stress. Our investing and lending activities may lead to situations where the holdings from these activities represent a significant portion of specific markets, which could restrict liquidity for our positions.
Further, our ability to sell assets may be impaired if other market participants are seeking to sell similar assets at the same time, as is likely to occur in a liquidity or other market crisis. In addition, financial institutions with which we interact may exercise set-off rights or the right to require additional collateral, including in difficult market conditions, which could further impair our access to liquidity.
Our credit ratings are important to our liquidity. A reduction in our credit ratings could adversely affect our liquidity and competitive position, increase our borrowing costs, limit our access to the capital markets or trigger our obligations under certain provisions in some of our trading and collateralized financing contracts. Under these provisions, counterparties could be permitted to terminate contracts with Goldman Sachs or require us to post additional collateral. Termination of our trading and collateralized financing contracts could cause us to sustain losses and impair our liquidity by requiring us to find other sources of financing or to make significant cash payments or securities movements. Certain rating agencies have indicated that the Dodd-Frank Act could result in the rating agencies reducing their assumed level of government support and therefore result in ratings downgrades for certain large financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs.
Our cost of obtaining long-term unsecured funding is directly related to our credit spreads (the amount in excess of the interest rate of U.S. Treasury securities (or other benchmark securities) of the same maturity that we need to pay to our debt investors). Increases in our credit spreads can significantly increase our cost of this funding. Changes in credit spreads are continuous, market-driven, and subject at times to unpredictable and highly volatile movements. Credit spreads are influenced by market perceptions of our creditworthiness. In addition, our credit spreads may be influenced by movements in the costs to purchasers of credit default swaps referenced to our long-term debt. The market for credit default swaps, although very large, has proven to be extremely volatile and currently lacks a high degree of structure or transparency.
Conflicts of interest are increasing and a failure to appropriately identify and address conflicts of interest could adversely affect our businesses.
As we have expanded the scope of our businesses and our client base, we increasingly must address potential conflicts of interest, including situations where our services to a particular client or our own investments or other interests conflict, or are perceived to conflict, with the interests of another client, as well as situations where one or more of our businesses have access to material non-public information that may not be shared with other businesses within the firm and situations where we may be a creditor of an entity with which we also have an advisory or other relationship.
In addition, our status as a bank holding company subjects us to heightened regulation and increased regulatory scrutiny by the Federal Reserve Board with respect to transactions between GS Bank USA and entities that are or could be viewed as affiliates of ours.
We have extensive procedures and controls that are designed to identify and address conflicts of interest, including those designed to prevent the improper sharing of information among our businesses. However, appropriately identifying and dealing with conflicts of interest is complex and difficult, and our reputation, which is one of our most important assets, could be damaged and the willingness of clients to enter into transactions with us may be affected if we fail, or appear to fail, to identify, disclose and deal appropriately with conflicts of interest. In addition, potential or perceived conflicts could give rise to litigation or regulatory enforcement actions.
Group Inc. is a holding company and is dependent for liquidity on payments from its subsidiaries, many of which are subject to restrictions.
Group Inc. is a holding company and, therefore, depends on dividends, distributions and other payments from its subsidiaries to fund dividend payments and to fund all payments on its obligations, including debt obligations. Many of our subsidiaries, including our broker-dealer, bank and insurance subsidiaries, are subject to laws that restrict dividend payments or authorize regulatory bodies to block or reduce the flow of funds from those subsidiaries to Group Inc. In addition, our broker-dealer, bank and insurance subsidiaries are subject to restrictions on their ability to lend or transact with affiliates and to minimum regulatory capital requirements, as well as restrictions on their ability to use funds deposited with them in brokerage or bank accounts to fund their businesses. Additional restrictions on related-party transactions, increased capital requirements and additional limitations on the use of funds on deposit in bank or brokerage accounts, as well as lower earnings, can reduce the amount of funds available to meet the obligations of Group Inc. and even require Group Inc. to provide additional funding to such subsidiaries. Restrictions or regulatory action of that kind could impede access to funds that Group Inc. needs to make payments on its obligations, including debt obligations, or dividend payments. In addition, Group Inc.s right to participate in a distribution of assets upon a subsidiarys liquidation or reorganization is subject to the prior claims of the subsidiarys creditors.
Furthermore, Group Inc. has guaranteed the payment obligations of certain of its subsidiaries, including GS&Co., GS Bank USA, GS Bank Europe and Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing, L.P. subject to certain exceptions, and has pledged significant assets to GS Bank USA to support obligations to GS Bank USA. In addition, Group Inc. guarantees many of the obligations of its other consolidated subsidiaries on a transaction-by-transaction basis, as negotiated with counterparties. These guarantees may require Group Inc. to provide substantial funds or assets to its subsidiaries or their creditors or counterparties at a time when Group Inc. is in need of liquidity to fund its own obligations. See Business Regulation in Part I, Item 1 of this Form 10-K for a further discussion of regulatory restrictions.
Our businesses, profitability and liquidity may be adversely affected by deterioration in the credit quality of, or defaults by, third parties who owe us money, securities or other assets or whose securities or obligations we hold.
We are exposed to the risk that third parties that owe us money, securities or other assets will not perform their obligations. These parties may default on their obligations to us due to bankruptcy, lack of liquidity, operational failure or other reasons. A failure of a significant market participant, or even concerns about a default by such an institution, could lead to significant liquidity problems, losses or defaults by other institutions, which in turn could adversely affect us.
We are also subject to the risk that our rights against third parties may not be enforceable in all circumstances. In addition, deterioration in the credit quality of third parties whose securities or obligations we hold could result in losses and/or adversely affect our ability to rehypothecate or otherwise use those securities or obligations for liquidity purposes. A significant downgrade in the credit ratings of our counterparties could also have a negative impact on our results. While in many cases we are permitted to require additional collateral from counterparties that experience financial difficulty, disputes may arise as to the amount of collateral we are entitled to receive and the value of pledged assets. The termination of contracts and the foreclosure on collateral may subject us to claims for the improper exercise of our rights. Default rates, downgrades and disputes with counterparties as to the valuation of collateral increase significantly in times of market stress and illiquidity.
As part of our clearing and prime brokerage activities, we finance our clients positions, and we could be held responsible for the defaults or misconduct of our clients. Although we regularly review credit exposures to specific clients and counterparties and to specific industries, countries and regions that we believe may present credit concerns, default risk may arise from events or circumstances that are difficult to detect or foresee.
Concentration of risk increases the potential for significant losses in our market-making, underwriting, investing and lending activities.
Concentration of risk increases the potential for significant losses in our market-making, underwriting, investing and lending activities. The number and size of such transactions may affect our results of operations in a given period. Moreover, because of concentration of risk, we may suffer losses even when economic and market conditions are generally favorable for our competitors. Disruptions in the credit markets can make it difficult to hedge these credit exposures effectively or economically. In addition, we extend large commitments as part of our credit origination activities. The Dodd-Frank Act will require issuers of asset-backed securities and any person who organizes and initiates an asset-backed securities transaction to retain economic exposure to the asset, which could significantly increase the cost to us of engaging in securitization activities. Our inability to reduce our credit risk by selling, syndicating or securitizing these positions, including during periods of market stress, could negatively affect our results of operations due to a decrease in the fair value of the positions, including due to the insolvency or bankruptcy of the borrower, as well as the loss of revenues associated with selling such securities or loans.
In the ordinary course of business, we may be subject to a concentration of credit risk to a particular counterparty, borrower or issuer, including sovereign issuers, and a failure or downgrade of, or default by, such entity could negatively impact our businesses, perhaps materially, and the systems by which we set limits and monitor the level of our credit exposure to individual entities, industries and countries may not function as we have anticipated. While our activities expose us to many different industries and counterparties, we routinely execute a high volume of transactions with counterparties engaged in financial services activities, including brokers and dealers, commercial banks, clearing houses, exchanges and investment funds. This has resulted in significant credit concentration with respect to these counterparties. Provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act are expected to lead to increased centralization of trading activity through particular clearing houses, central agents or exchanges, which may increase our concentration of risk with respect to these entities.
The financial services industry is highly competitive.
The financial services industry and all of our businesses are intensely competitive, and we expect them to remain so. We compete on the basis of a number of factors, including transaction execution, our products and services, innovation, reputation, creditworthiness and price. Over time, there has been substantial consolidation and convergence among companies in the financial services industry. This trend accelerated over recent years as a result of numerous mergers and asset acquisitions among industry participants. This trend has also hastened the globalization of the securities and other financial services markets. As a result, we have had to commit capital to support our international operations and to execute large global transactions. To the extent we expand into new business areas and new geographic regions, we will face competitors with more experience and more established relationships with clients, regulators and industry participants in the relevant market, which could adversely affect our ability to expand. Governments and regulators have recently adopted regulations, imposed taxes or otherwise put forward various proposals that have or may impact our ability to conduct certain of our businesses in a cost-effective manner or at all in certain or all jurisdictions, including proposals relating to restrictions on the type of activities in which financial institutions are permitted to engage. These or other similar proposals, which may not apply to all our U.S. or non-U.S. competitors, could impact our ability to compete effectively.
Pricing and other competitive pressures in our businesses have continued to increase, particularly in situations where some of our competitors may seek to increase market share by reducing prices. For example, in connection with investment banking and other assignments, we have experienced pressure to extend and price credit at levels that may not always fully compensate us for the risks we take.
We face enhanced risks as new business initiatives lead us to transact with a broader array of clients and counterparties and expose us to new asset classes and new markets.
A number of our recent and planned business initiatives and expansions of existing businesses may bring us into contact, directly or indirectly, with individuals and entities that are not within our traditional client and counterparty base and expose us to new asset classes and new markets. For example, we are increasingly transacting business and investing in new regions, including a wider range of emerging and growth markets. Furthermore, in a number of our businesses, including where we make markets, invest and lend, we directly or indirectly own interests in, or otherwise become affiliated with the ownership and operation of public services, such as airports, toll roads and shipping ports, as well as power generation facilities, physical commodities and other commodities infrastructure components, both within and outside the United States. Recent market conditions may lead to an increase in opportunities to acquire distressed assets and we may determine opportunistically to increase our exposure to these types of assets.
These activities expose us to new and enhanced risks, including risks associated with dealing with governmental entities, reputational concerns arising from dealing with less sophisticated counterparties and investors, greater regulatory scrutiny of these activities, increased credit-related, sovereign and operational risks, risks arising from accidents or acts of terrorism, and reputational concerns with the manner in which these assets are being operated or held.
Derivative transactions and delayed settlements may expose us to unexpected risk and potential losses.
We are party to a large number of derivative transactions, including credit derivatives. Many of these derivative instruments are individually negotiated and non-standardized, which can make exiting, transferring or settling positions difficult. Many credit derivatives require that we deliver to the counterparty the underlying security, loan or other obligation in order to receive payment. In a number of cases, we do not hold the underlying security, loan or other obligation and may not be able to obtain the underlying security, loan or other obligation. This could cause us to forfeit the payments due to us under these contracts or result in settlement delays with the attendant credit and operational risk as well as increased costs to the firm. Derivative transactions may also involve the risk that they are not authorized or appropriate for a counterparty, that documentation has not been properly executed or that executed agreements may not be enforceable against the counterparty.
Derivative contracts and other transactions, including secondary bank loan purchases and sales, entered into with third parties are not always confirmed by the counterparties or settled on a timely basis. While the transaction remains unconfirmed or during any delay in settlement, we are subject to heightened credit and operational risk and in the event of a default may find it more difficult to enforce our rights. In addition, as new and more complex derivative products are created, covering a wider array of underlying credit and other instruments, disputes about the terms of the underlying contracts could arise, which could impair our ability to effectively manage our risk exposures from these products and subject us to increased costs. The provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act requiring central clearing of credit derivatives and other OTC derivatives, or a market shift toward standardized derivatives, could reduce the risk associated with such transactions, but under certain circumstances could also limit our ability to develop derivatives that best suit the needs of our clients and ourselves and adversely affect our profitability and increase our credit exposure to such platform.
Our businesses may be adversely affected if we are unable to hire and retain qualified employees.
Our performance is largely dependent on the talents and efforts of highly skilled individuals; therefore, our continued ability to compete effectively in our businesses, to manage our businesses effectively and to expand into new businesses and geographic areas depends on our ability to attract new talented and diverse employees and to retain and motivate our existing employees. Factors that affect our ability to attract and retain such employees include our compensation and benefits, and our reputation as a successful business with a culture of fairly hiring, training and promoting qualified employees.
Competition from within the financial services industry and from businesses outside the financial services industry for qualified employees has often been intense. This is particularly the case in emerging and growth markets, where we are often competing for qualified employees with entities that have a significantly greater presence or more extensive experience in the region.
As described further in Business Regulation Banking Regulation and Regulation Compensation Practices in Part I, Item 1 of this Form 10-K, our compensation practices are subject to review by, and the standards of, the Federal Reserve Board. As a large financial and banking institution, we may be subject to limitations on compensation practices (which may or may not affect our competitors) by the Federal Reserve Board, the FSA, the FDIC or other regulators worldwide. These limitations, including any imposed by or as a result of future legislation or regulation, may require us to alter our compensation practices in ways that could adversely affect our ability to attract and retain talented employees. We may also be required to make additional disclosure with respect to the compensation of employees, including non-executive officers, in a manner that directly or indirectly results in the identity of such employees and their compensation being made public. Any such additional public disclosure of employee compensation may also make it difficult to attract and retain talented employees.
Our businesses and those of our clients are subject to extensive and pervasive regulation around the world.
As a participant in the financial services industry and a bank holding company, we are subject to extensive regulation in jurisdictions around the world. We face the risk of significant intervention by regulatory and taxing authorities in all jurisdictions in which we conduct our businesses. Among other things, as a result of regulators enforcing existing laws and regulations, we could be fined, prohibited from engaging in some of our business activities, subject to limitations or conditions on our business activities or subjected to new or substantially higher taxes or other governmental charges in connection with the conduct of our business or with respect to our employees.
There is also the risk that new laws or regulations or changes in enforcement of existing laws or regulations applicable to our businesses or those of our clients, including tax burdens and compensation restrictions, could be imposed on a limited subset of financial institutions (either based on size, activities, geography or other criteria), which may adversely affect our ability to compete effectively with other institutions that are not affected in the same way.
The impact of such developments could impact our profitability in the affected jurisdictions, or even make it uneconomic for us to continue to conduct all or certain of our businesses in such jurisdictions, or could cause us to incur significant costs associated with changing our business practices, restructuring our businesses, moving all or certain of our businesses and our employees to other locations or complying with applicable capital requirements, including liquidating assets or raising capital in a manner that adversely increases our funding costs or otherwise adversely affects our shareholders and creditors.
For a discussion of the extensive regulation to which our businesses are subject, see Business Regulation in Part I, Item 1 of this Form 10-K.
We may be adversely affected by increased governmental and regulatory scrutiny or negative publicity.
Governmental scrutiny from regulators, legislative bodies and law enforcement agencies with respect to matters relating to compensation, our business practices, our past actions and other matters has increased dramatically in the past several years. The financial crisis and the current political and public sentiment regarding financial institutions has resulted in a significant amount of adverse press coverage, as well as adverse statements or charges by regulators or other government officials. Press coverage and other public statements that assert some form of wrongdoing often result in some type of investigation by regulators, legislators and law enforcement officials or in lawsuits. Responding to these investigations and lawsuits, regardless of the ultimate outcome of the proceeding, is time consuming and expensive and can divert the time and effort of our senior management from our business. Penalties and fines sought by regulatory authorities have increased substantially over the last several years, and certain regulators have been more likely in recent years to commence enforcement actions or to advance or support legislation targeted at the financial services industry. Adverse publicity, governmental scrutiny and legal and enforcement proceedings can also have a negative impact on our reputation and on the morale and performance of our employees, which could adversely affect our businesses and results of operations.
A failure in our operational systems or infrastructure, or those of third parties, could impair our liquidity, disrupt our businesses, result in the disclosure of confidential information, damage our reputation and cause losses.
Our businesses are highly dependent on our ability to process and monitor, on a daily basis, a very large number of transactions, many of which are highly complex, across numerous and diverse markets in many currencies. These transactions, as well as the information technology services we provide to clients, often must adhere to client-specific guidelines, as well as legal and regulatory standards.
As our client base and our geographical reach expands, developing and maintaining our operational systems and infrastructure becomes increasingly challenging. Our financial, accounting, data processing or other operating systems and facilities may fail to operate properly or become disabled as a result of events
that are wholly or partially beyond our control, such as a spike in transaction volume, adversely affecting our ability to process these transactions or provide these services. We must continuously update these systems to support our operations and growth and to respond to changes in regulations and markets. This updating entails significant costs and creates risks associated with implementing new systems and integrating them with existing ones.
In addition, we also face the risk of operational failure, termination or capacity constraints of any of the clearing agents, exchanges, clearing houses or other financial intermediaries we use to facilitate our securities transactions, and as our interconnectivity with our clients grows, we increasingly face the risk of operational failure with respect to our clients systems.
In recent years, there has been significant consolidation among clearing agents, exchanges and clearing houses and an increasing number of derivative transactions are now or in the near future will be cleared on exchanges, which has increased our exposure to operational failure, termination or capacity constraints of the particular financial intermediaries that we use and could affect our ability to find adequate and cost-effective alternatives in the event of any such failure, termination or constraint. Industry consolidation, whether among market participants or financial intermediaries, increases the risk of operational failure as disparate complex systems need to be integrated, often on an accelerated basis.
Furthermore, the interconnectivity of multiple financial institutions with central agents, exchanges and clearing houses, and the increased centrality of these entities, increases the risk that an operational failure at one institution or entity may cause an industry-wide operational failure that could materially impact our ability to conduct business. Any such failure, termination or constraint could adversely affect our ability to effect transactions, service our clients, manage our exposure to risk or expand our businesses or result in financial loss or liability to our clients, impairment of our liquidity, disruption of our businesses, regulatory intervention or reputational damage.
Despite the resiliency plans and facilities we have in place, our ability to conduct business may be adversely impacted by a disruption in the infrastructure that supports our businesses and the communities in which we are located. This may include a disruption involving electrical, communications, internet, transportation or other services used by us or third parties with which we conduct business. These disruptions may occur as a result of events that affect only our buildings or systems or those of such third parties, or as a result of events with a broader impact globally, regionally or in the cities where those buildings or systems are located.
Nearly all of our employees in our primary locations, including the New York metropolitan area, London, Bangalore, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Salt Lake City, work in close proximity to one another, in one or more buildings. Notwithstanding our efforts to maintain business continuity, given that our headquarters and the largest concentration of our employees are in the New York metropolitan area, depending on the intensity and longevity of the event, a catastrophic event impacting our New York metropolitan area offices could very negatively affect our business. If a disruption occurs in one location and our employees in that location are unable to occupy our offices or communicate with or travel to other locations, our ability to service and interact with our clients may suffer, and we may not be able to successfully implement contingency plans that depend on communication or travel.
Our operations rely on the secure processing, storage and transmission of confidential and other information in our computer systems and networks. Although we take protective measures and endeavor to modify them as circumstances warrant, our computer systems, software and networks may be vulnerable to unauthorized access, misuse, computer viruses or other malicious code and other events that could have a security impact. If one or more of such events occur, this potentially could jeopardize our or our clients or counterparties confidential and other information processed and stored in, and transmitted through, our computer systems and networks, or otherwise cause interruptions or malfunctions in our, our clients, our counterparties or third parties operations, which could result in significant losses or reputational damage. We may be required to expend significant additional resources to modify our protective measures or to investigate and remediate vulnerabilities or other exposures, and we may be subject to litigation and financial losses that are either not insured against or not fully covered through any insurance maintained by us.
We routinely transmit and receive personal, confidential and proprietary information by email and other electronic means. We have discussed and worked with clients, vendors, service providers, counterparties and other third parties to develop secure transmission capabilities, but we do not have, and may be unable to put in place, secure capabilities with all of our clients, vendors, service providers, counterparties and other third parties and we may not be able to ensure that these third parties have appropriate controls in place to protect the confidentiality of the information. An interception, misuse or mishandling of personal, confidential or proprietary information being sent to or received from a client, vendor, service provider, counterparty or other third party could result in legal liability, regulatory action and reputational harm.
Substantial legal liability or significant regulatory action against us could have material adverse financial effects or cause us significant reputational harm, which in turn could seriously harm our business prospects.
We face significant legal risks in our businesses, and the volume of claims and amount of damages and penalties claimed in litigation and regulatory proceedings against financial institutions remain high. See Legal Proceedings in Part I, Item 3 of this Form 10-K for a discussion of certain legal proceedings in which we are involved. Our experience has been that legal claims by customers and clients increase in a market downturn and that employment-related claims increase in periods when we have reduced the total number of employees.
There have been a number of highly publicized cases, involving actual or alleged fraud or other misconduct by employees in the financial services industry in recent years, and we run the risk that employee misconduct could occur. This misconduct has included and may include in the future the theft of proprietary software. It is not always possible to deter or prevent employee misconduct and the precautions we take to prevent and detect this activity have not been and may not be effective in all cases.
The growth of electronic trading and the introduction of new trading technology may adversely affect our business and may increase competition.
Technology is fundamental to our business and our industry. The growth of electronic trading and the introduction of new technologies is changing our businesses and presenting us with new challenges. Securities, futures and options transactions are increasingly occurring electronically, both on our own systems and through other alternative trading systems, and it appears that the trend toward alternative trading systems will continue and probably accelerate. Some of these alternative trading systems compete with us, particularly our exchange-based market-making activities, and we may experience continued competitive pressures in these and other areas. In addition, the increased use by our clients of low-cost electronic trading systems and direct electronic access to trading markets could cause a reduction in commissions and spreads. As our clients increasingly use our systems to trade directly in the markets, we may incur liabilities as a result of their use of our order routing and execution infrastructure. We have invested significant resources into the development of electronic trading systems and expect to continue to do so, but there is no assurance that the revenues generated by these systems will yield an adequate return on our investment, particularly given the relatively lower commissions arising from electronic trades.
Our commodities activities, particularly our power generation interests and our physical commodities activities, subject us to extensive regulation, potential catastrophic events and environmental, reputational and other risks that may expose us to significant liabilities and costs.
We engage in, or invest in entities that engage in, the production, storage, transportation, marketing and trading of numerous commodities, including crude oil, oil products, natural gas, electric power, agricultural products, metals (base and precious), minerals (including uranium), emission credits, coal, freight, liquefied natural gas and related products and indices. These activities subject us to extensive and evolving federal, state and local energy, environmental and other governmental laws and regulations worldwide, including environmental laws and regulations relating to, among others, air quality, water quality, waste management, transportation of hazardous substances, natural resources, site remediation and health and safety. Additionally, rising climate change concerns may lead to additional regulation that could increase the operating costs and profitability of our investments.
We may incur substantial costs in complying with current or future laws and regulations relating to our commodities-related activities and investments, particularly electric power generation, transportation and storage of physical commodities and wholesale sales and trading of electricity and natural gas. Compliance with these laws and regulations could require us to commit significant capital toward environmental monitoring, installation of pollution control equipment, renovation of storage facilities or transport vessels, payment of emission fees and carbon or other taxes, and application for, and holding of, permits and licenses.
Our commodities-related activities are also subject to the risk of unforeseen or catastrophic events, many of which are outside of our control, including breakdown or failure of power generation equipment, transmission lines, transport vessels, storage facilities or other equipment or processes or other mechanical malfunctions, fires, leaks, spills or release of hazardous substances, performance below expected levels of output or efficiency, terrorist attacks, natural disasters or other hostile or catastrophic events. In addition, we rely on third-party suppliers or service providers to perform their contractual obligations and any failure on their part, including the failure to obtain raw materials at reasonable prices or to safely transport or store commodities, could adversely affect our activities. In addition, we may not be able to obtain insurance to cover some of these risks an