Goldman Sachs is coming under fierce criticism today for attempting to profit from Typhoon Haiyan though price gouging.
According to local reports, a company controlled by the notorious Wall Street investment bank is taking advantage of the storm's chaotic aftermath to charge huge markups on basic supplies – even selling one-liter bottles of water for 875 pesos (US$20) to thirsty survivors.
"We're received numerous reports of price gouging from all areas affected by the storm," says Justice Minister Leila de Lima, "It appears someone purchased huge amounts of provisions before the typhoon hit and are now selling them at inflated prices.
"We traced the items to a company called VS Concepts (VSC). Our research shows that VSC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. The Philippine branch has been registered for five years, but hasn't had any revenue until now. It seems they were quietly building stockpiles and just waiting for this storm to happen.
"People are buying blankets, medical supplies, food, water. They have no choice. One mother reportedly spent 8600 pesos (US $200 dollars) on baby food for her child. We are a poor nation. The government doesn't have the resources to dispatch aid quickly enough. How can Goldman be so cruel?"
Doing God's Work
Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda, was one of the most powerful storms ever recorded when it made landfall in the Philippines on November 7th.
Many thousands are feared dead, and nations around the world are rushing to send aid. Where others see a humanitarian catastrophe, however, Goldman sees an opportunity for profit.
"Vampire Squid Concepts is one of our best performing business segments," says Goldman's CEO Lloyd Blankfien, "We don't give up profitable businesses just because some clown justice minister in a skirt opens her mouth.
"Goldman Sachs isn't a charity, it's a business. And this typhoon situation is the best business opportunity I've seen in years. If these people didn't want to be overcharged for water, maybe they should have stored some for emergencies.
"I'm focused on meeting my fiduciary duty to my shareholders. That's my job. I don't get paid to worry about these peasants. That's government's role."
Although De Lima has personally called Blankfien to beg Goldman to release its supply cache for free, she apparently has no legal recourse to stop the firm's appalling practices.
"Technically what they're doing isn't illegal,"explains Fletcher Reede, an expert on Philippine law at Georgetown University,"It used to be. But Goldman lobbied regulators to relax restrictions on price gouging a few years ago. It may be outrageous morally, but there's no longer any legal basis to halt this kind of behavior. We just have to get used it."