Goldman Sachs & Co., reviled in the U.S. for its role in the financial crisis, is now getting hammered in the world's No. 2 economy with a sensationalist new book accusing the investment bank of trying to destroy China.
The "Goldman Sachs Conspiracy," which has sold over 100,000 copies since it was released in June, reaching popular website Sina.com's top-10 list, follows another by author Li Delin, "Eliminate All Competitors — How Goldman Sachs Wins Over the World," published last year.
Li, a financial journalist, appears to have hit pay dirt among Chinese readers with an appetite for the would-be exposes that get prominent display in downtown bookstores, such as "Who Killed Toyota: the Truth of America's Attack" and "Currency War."
The nearly 300-page, highly dramatized account covers much of the same ground as a widely cited piece by Matt Taibbi last year in the Rolling Stone magazine that portrayed the Wall Street institution as a "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money."
Li's book takes ample license in its attacks on Goldman Sachs. The company's ultimate goal, he says in the first chapter, is to "kill China."
"Like a fox chewing a bone, Goldman Sachs knows the rules of the game and when to go for your neck," it says.
With the "cruel character of a Manchurian tiger, the group creeps around the world, like a veteran hunter stalking its prey, when it smells blood it pounces!" the chapter says.
Goldman Sachs' office in Beijing refused to comment on the book and on others of its ilk.
The financial cataclysm of 2008 and ensuing global recession has resulted in a profusion of books dissecting the role of global investment banks including Goldman Sachs.
"It reads like a novel, rather than a real story," said Peng Yunliang, a securities analyst.
"Goldman Sachs has been at the eye of the storm and is seen as the culprit behind the mess. That's clearly the most popular topic on the market," he said.
Goldman was sharply criticized, especially in the U.S., for its high executive pay after it accepted a $10 billion government bailout during the financial crisis. It also received $13 billion from insurer American International Group Inc. after the government bailed that company out. The bank recently agreed to a record settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over civil fraud charges.
In China, the company's business appears to have weathered well the market chaos elsewhere. The investment bank was an underwriter in the recent record-breaking $22.1 billion initial public offering by the Agricultural Bank of China, among other big deals.
Goldman also saw handsome gains from a $4.9 million investment in 2007 in a 12.5 percent stake in drug maker Shenzhen Hepalink, which later raised about $864 million in an IPO that catapulted the company's little-known founders to become, at least on paper, the richest couple in China.
Li, in an online chat, said the book was no exaggeration.
"The real financial battle is even more dramatic than my book, according to my knowledge of the markets," he said. "Goldman Sachs is the hand behind the financial crisis, maybe even its cause." He soon plans to publish a third book about the company.
The conspiracy genre and dramatized accounts of scandals are popular in China, as in many markets. China's government exerts strong control over the news media and broadcasters, but the book publishing industry has a bit freer leeway for commentary, particularly when the targets are not Communist Party officials.
The Chinese-language book also accuses Goldman Sachs of involvement in the recent Dubai and Greek debt debacles and the wider European financial and fiscal crises.
To buttress its myriad allegations, the book notes well-known links between former top Goldman Sachs executives, such as former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and government officials in America and other countries.
It also includes copies of what appear to be U.S. court documents. They include a complaint against Goldman Sachs and Fabrice Tourre, a Goldman vice president accused of shepherding a deal at the center of SEC charges that the company sold mortgage securities without telling buyers that they had been created with input from a client that was betting on them to fail.
Last month, a U.S. federal judge approved a settlement calling for Goldman Sachs & Co. to pay $550 million to settle civil fraud charges that the Wall Street giant misled buyers of mortgage-related investments. In the settlement, Goldman acknowledged that its marketing materials for the deal omitted important information for buyers.
The penalty was the largest against a Wall Street firm in SEC history. But the settlement amounts to less than 5 percent of Goldman's 2009 net income of $12.2 billion after payment of dividends to preferred shareholders — or a little more than two weeks of net income.