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What is Goldman Sachs?

That’s the question Lindsay hit the streets with back in 2006 for us at Wallstrip. The best answer…’They make a LOT of Money!’ (stick around for the very end for the second best answer)

According to Goldman Sachs ( $gs ) security, terrorist attacks were a worry and escorted us off their grounds.

As it turned out, Goldman and the rest of their banking brothers WERE the terrorists and we would have been right in escorting THEM out of the building. But that was than, this is now.

In my opinion, Goldman is a dangerous, closed ‘Collective Knowledge System‘ . Having a closed Collective Knowledge System is cool, but I have long not trusted what it is that Goldman’s system decides to share, with whom, and when.

I will let Jeff Matthews explain further. He has a fantastic piece on the wonderous research of Goldman Sachs that we saved. The story is about $BARE and their acquisition this past Friday at $18/share.

…No matter, this morning’s headlines brought a good reason to break that silence: the acquisition of Bare Escentuals, a publically-traded cosmetics company (ticker BARE ) based right here in San Francisco, by Shiseido, a large Japanese counterpart, for $18.20 a share in cold, hard, US dollars.

Now, as far as deals go, this really shouldn’t be an attention grabber, but stay with us while we get to the “teachable moment.”

The winners in the deal are, of course, existing Bare Escentuals shareholders, who happen to include the company founder, a private equity firm, and the many institutions and individuals who bothered buying the stock on their own free will.

The losers would mainly be short-sellers, who according to our Bloomberg are stuck with 5.3 million such shares they must now buy back (“He who sells what isn’t his’n,” as the old Jessie Livermore phrase goes, “must buy it back or go to prison”).

Another class of losers, however, would be pretty much anybody who took Goldman Sachs’ advice to sell their BARE stock just six weeks ago. Indeed, more than 5 million shares changed hands in the two days following Goldman’s early December move from the always-meaningless “Neutral” rating to the rare “Sell” rating, and the stock traded down $2, wiping out $200 million of the company’s valuation.

Now, there was good reason investors took Goldman Sachs’ advice to sell their BARE stock. After all, it was Goldman Sachs who led the Bare Escentuals public offering back in November 2006, pricing 16 million shares at $22.00 a share.

And it Goldman Sachs who successfully led a 12 million share secondary at $34.50 in early 2007, which Goldman’s crack Equity Research Team quickly followed by slapping a “Buy” rating on BARE stock, with a target price of $44.00 a share.

“But wait, there’s more!”: three months later, it was Goldman Sachs who, once again, plugged the Street with more stock, this time selling 8 million shares of BARE at $36.50.

Unfortunately, the Street had had enough of Bare Escentuals: the stock sold off ten points that summer and never really recovered.

But this did not deter Goldman’s Equity Research Team, for in the manner of equity research teams everywhere, Goldman’s Finest changed their “Buy” rating to a “Neutral” after all the deals were done, and stuck with that “Neutral”rating as the stock performed in a decidedly non-Neutral fashion: it cratered all the way down to $2.45 a share in March 2009.

Now, you might think such a ridiculous price (the valuation was 3-times EBITDA at the low, for a 70% gross margin, 28% operating margin business) would have merited an upgrade…after all, if you liked it a $36.50, shouldn’t you love it at $2.45?

But you’d be wrong. In fact, Goldman kept its “Neutral” rating and thus missed a 425% rally in BARE stock until it hit $13.00 a share—where Goldman’s Finest deemed the shares an outright “Sell” just over a month ago.

By our count, that’s three overpriced stock offerings and four bad research calls, for a score of Goldman 7, Public 0.

Now, you might, furthermore, think this sort of performance would hurt Goldman Sachs—i.e. that there might be some sort of loss of credibility in the matter of Bare Escentuals which would have a negative financial implication down the road for Goldman Sachs, Inc.

And you would already be wrong.

Because the financial advisor to Bare Escentuals in its acquisition by Shiseido is none other than…

Yes, you got it.

Goldman 8, Public 0.

Managing money is hard. Doing it yourself is laughed at. At Stocktwits we believe a ‘Collective Knowledge System’ can work much better though. If you look at the $bare stream on Stocktwits, you will see that a hardworking Stocktwits contributor Attitrade notived unsusual Call Option activity on January 8th. He did not upgrade or downgrade the stock, just posted the unusual activity. I would say he is 1 for 1 on $BARE with just a couple of computers.

There is much more of this going on at Stocktwits every day.


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