No such thing as bad press?

They have been lauded as the new masters of the universe, towering over mere mortals at rival banks. Two Goldman Sachs traders, Michael Swenson [’89] and Josh Birnbaum, are hot-shot heroes who made billions out of America’s sub-prime mortgage crisis. Or are they?

In an unusually breathless terms, the financial press this week named “Swenny” and Birnbaum as the key figures responsible for Goldman Sachs’ remarkable leap in profits in a year when just about every rival – including Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns – took a cold, deep bath.

And its success may not last – Goldman’s shares took a walloping this week simply because of a few murmurs about a “cautious” outlook on a conference call with analysts.

So are Swenson and Birnbaum heroes? Not really – just ruthless, clever men who turned a bad situation to their advantage. Goldman is the bank of the year and has out-smarted its competitors. But its sheen of invincibility won’t last forever.

Read the whole thing. Previous coverage here.

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