Goldman Sachs Shareholder Recommends the Bank Explore a Sale

Tickers in this article: GS

NEW YORK (TheStreet) - A Goldman Sachs shareholder has proposed the investment bank hire advisors of its own to explore strategic moves such as a full sale of the 144-year old company.

In a proxy statement filed Friday, Goldman Sachs disclosed an investor proposal to explore a full sale of the company to maximize value for shareholders.

The proposal, filed by Eric M. Fogel of Illinois, says that Goldman should hire advisors given the firm's lagging stock performance since 2007, when shares were roughly a third higher than current levels just below $150 a share.

Fogel recommended the bank "immediately engage the services of an investment banking firm to evaluate alternatives that could enhance shareholder value including, but not limited to, a merger or outright sale of the Company," according to the proxy filing.

"The Company has not been successful in delivering a positive return for its shareholders."

Fogel's proposal goes on to cite issues such as a $550 million fine levied by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2010 and the arrest and conviction of a former board member, Rajat Gupta, on insider trading charges as signs the bank's reputation has been tarnished.

In its proxy, Goldman Sachs said Fogel holds at least $2,000 worth of the bank's shares, however, the bank's Board of Directors rejected the proposal outright and urged shareholders to vote against it.

"OUR BOARD UNANIMOUSLY RECOMMENDS A VOTE AGAINST THE SHAREHOLDER PROPOSAL," the proxy states.

"We have determined that the best course of action at this time is to continue to focus management's time and energy on operating our business, addressing the risks and challenges presented to our firm, improving our business opportunities and remaining nimble in the face of an ever-changing economic environment."

While Goldman appears to concede poor share performance since 2007, it cited previously challenging economic conditions and the strength the bank's current business model and management as reason shareholders should expect strong performance.

Goldman Sachs is up 23% over the past 12 months compared a 14% advance on the S&P 500. Year-to-date Goldman shares have gained 16% outperforming an 11% gain for the S&P.

Citing what it characterized as rising earnings and an above-industry-average return on equity since the financial crisis, Goldman went on to conclude, "we do not believe that actively seeking a merger or sale of our company at this time, as advocated by the proposal, is the best means of maximizing value for long-term shareholders."

An April 11 report from JPMorgan analyst Kian Kian Abouhossein characterized tier-one investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank as "un-investable." Abouhossein highlighted the impact of new regulation as limiting Goldman's ability to trade at a further premium to book value.

The analyst, meanwhile, cited Deutsche Bank's capital and its U.S.-based operations as risks for shareholders.