Goldman, Blankfein, Cohn Must Face Shareholder Lawsuit Over 1MDB Scandal

1MDB
FILE PHOTO: Men walk past a 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) billboard at the funds flagship Tun Razak Exchange development in Kuala Lumpur March 1, 2015. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

NEW YORK ⸺ Goldman Sachs Group Inc and two former top executives were ordered by a U.S. judge on Monday to face a lawsuit accusing them of misleading shareholders about the bank’s work for 1MDB, a Malaysian fund that became embroiled in a corruption scandal.

U.S. District Judge Vernon Broderick in Manhattan said shareholders in the proposed class action adequately alleged that several statements by Goldman, former Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, and former Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn about 1MDB and Goldman’s ethics were false and misleading.

Shareholders led by Swedish pension fund Sjunde AP-Fonden claimed that Goldman’s market value fell by billions of dollars as the truth about its 1MDB dealings became public.

Goldman spokesperson Maeve DuVally declined to comment. Lawyers for the other defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The shareholders’ lawyers did not immediately respond to similar requests.

Broderick’s decision followed Goldman’s agreement last Oct. 22 to pay $2.9 billion in penalties and have a Malaysian unit admit criminal wrongdoing to settle 1MDB probes by the U.S. Department of Justice and other authorities.

Goldman helped sell $6.5 billion of bonds for 1MDB, a sovereign wealth fund that former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak launched to promote economic development, and collected an estimated $600 million of fees.

Authorities have said that fund officials and accomplices looted bond proceeds for luxuries and to finance Hollywood films, while Goldman bankers bribed officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi to win 1MDB business.

Broderick said it “strains credulity” for Goldman to contend it had no indication that funds were being siphoned, and said shareholders could sue over the bank’s claim it was “dedicated to complying fully with the letter and spirit of the laws, rules and ethical principles that govern us.”

He also said shareholders could try to prove Blankfein ignored internal warnings about 1MDB before telling a journalist in November 2018 that he had been “not aware” of red flags.

Broderick also dismissed all claims against Harvey Schwartz, who became Goldman’s co-COO after Cohn left.

The case is Sjunde AP-Fonden v. Goldman Sachs Group Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-12084.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Himani Sarkar; Reuters

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