By Colin Barr
July 16, 2010

This just in: Goldman can afford its big settlement payout.

So says S&P. The rating agency sent subscribers an email Friday with the all-caps header “BULLETIN” over an utterly unremarkable announcement: A planned $550 million settlement payout by Goldman Sachs

 “does not immediately affect the ratings.”

This comes as a surprise to no one, least of all S&P. It said three months ago when the Securities and Exchange Commission filed its fraud case that it was “unlikely that any monetary payouts that could ultimately arise as a direct result of the case will be sufficiently large to materially affect our view of GS’s overall financial profile.” The firm rates Goldman A with a negative outlook.

It only stands to reason that a firm with $27 billion in cash on hand is unlikely to sweat much over a penalty that amounts to two weeks’ worth of first-quarter profits. And indeed, S&P’s statement Friday purrs that “this payment is manageable.”

Now if S&P could only manage to stop tacking urgent-sounding headers onto routine ratings updates.

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