Just hours after authorities in Hong Kong confirmed that they would become at least the fifth jurisdiction where Goldman Sachs would be forced to pay a fine related to its involvement in 1MDB, WSJ is reporting that senior Goldman executives, including since-departed ex-CEO Lloyd Blankfein, will be forced to surrender tens of millions of dollars in back pay.

After officially agreeing to settlements with the US Department of Justice and Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission, one of WSJ’s top banking reporters, Liz Hoffman, broke the news of the executive clawbacks.

Over in Hong Kong, officials released a statement on Thursday reprimanding Goldman Sachs Asia, which it described as the “compliance and control hub for Goldman Sachs in Asia” for sizable AML failures tied to the three bond offerings for 1MDB. Goldman’s Asia unit “significant involvement in the origination, approval, execution and sales process of the three 1MDB bond offerings” and was paid about $210m of the $615 million Goldman earned for the deal, the biggest share of any Goldman subsidiary,” per the FT.

Goldman has so far agreed to pay $2.5 million to Malaysia in a settlement announced back in July, and on Thursday it agreed to pay $2.8 million to the DoJ and a host of other global regulators, including the HK authority. As expected, Goldman’s subsidiary in Malaysia pleaded guilty in Brooklyn Federal Court on Thursday of conspiring to violate American anti-bribery laws. Ultimately, the settlement will involve officials from the DoJ and HK, along with regulators in the UK and Singapore.

Of course, the executive compensation component of the settlement, which will take the form of both clawbacks and pay cuts (since Goldman CEO David Solomon was the head of the international unit that oversaw the 1MDB bond deals), is mostly window-dressing: as WSJ readily admits, the money will pale in comparison to the more than $5 billion that the bank is shelling out in restitution and fines.

This element is also an admission of sorts for prosecutors who may not have been able to secure a guilty plea for Goldman’s US-based holding company. They’ve apparently found another way to show that the “win at all costs” culture described by the prosecution’s key witnesses, Timothy Leissner, the bank’s former top dealmaker in Southeast Asia, and Roger Ng, another Goldman banker. Leissner pled guilty back in 2018 as part of a deal with prosecutors, while Ng maintains his innocence.

Goldman raised $6.5 billion for the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund by selling bonds to its network of investors. However, most of that money was stolen by Jho Low, a financier who was charged with overseeing the fund, who was aided by Malaysian officials, including former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been found guilty on some charges stemming from the scandal.

So far, we haven’t heard anything from the GS execs named by WSJ, including former CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who is known for occasionally speaking out on Twitter.





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