Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in court

Massive legal and regulatory settlements by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. over its involvement with a bribery scandal are in line with expectations, Fitch Ratings says.

The firm reached a coordinated settlement with U.S. and various foreign authorities to resolve allegations that concerned its role in securing bond underwriting business from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund, 1MDB, which involved bribing government officials.

Fitch said that the US$5.1-billion direct financial cost of the settlements is in line with its expectations and won’t immediately impact Goldman’s ratings.

The settlement “materially resolves the criminal matter in the U.S. and internationally,” Fitch said, noting that a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with U.S. authorities “does not expand the company’s criminal liability or restrict its ability to do business.”

Additionally, the remediation requirements imposed by the authorities are within Fitch’s expectations, the agency said.

“This closes a chapter on Goldman’s involvement with 1MDB but stands as a stark reminder for the banking industry that lapses in oversight and controls can and will be very costly,” said Christopher Wolfe, Fitch’s head of North American banks.

The rating outlook on Goldman remains negative, but this is primarily due to the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.