Goldman rides tax inversions to top of M&A heap

July 29, 2014, 6:44 PM UTC
U.S., Canada & Mexico Finance Ministers Panel Discussion At Goldman Sachs Energy Conference
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., listens during a panel discussion ahead of the Goldman Sachs North American Energy Summit in New York, U.S., on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. The summit will assemble public and private stakeholders to discuss a strategy for harnessing the continents energy resources to spur economic growth, enhance national security and regional competitiveness as well as promote responsible development of these resources.†Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Jin Lee — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Tax inversions have been, well, golden, for Goldman Sachs.

The investment bank has made more than any other Wall Street firm advising companies on the controversial acquisition deals that have enabled U.S. companies to move their headquarters overseas and avoid U.S. taxes. According to Thomson Reuters, Goldman (GS) has raked in just over $200 million in fees in 3.5 years advising companies on how to do deals that will allow them to contribute less to the United States.

Goldman is certainly not alone in benefitting from inversions. It is closely followed by JPMorgan Chase (JPM), which stands to make $185 million on these deals. The New York Times noted on Tuesday that, collectively, Wall Street firms are nearing in on the $1 billion mark in fees from the deals, and don’t forget all the fees charged by law firms and other advisors who work on these deals.

By jumping with both feet into inversions, Goldman has been able to regain the top spot among M&A advisors this year. According to Wells Fargo, through mid July, Goldman was an advisor on just under 30% of all completed global M&A transactions this year. That helped it secure the No. 1 spot over Morgan Stanley (MS). This time last year, Goldman followed Morgan slightly on M&A transactions. But Goldman still led last year by the number of deals announced.

In response to a question from a Fortune reporter on an earnings conference call, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon gave the tax inversion deals a thumbs up. He said as long as the U.S. was going to have a higher tax rate than other countries, American companies should feel free to move elsewhere. He likened the move to consumers who choose to shop at Wal-Mart (WMT) because it’s ostensibly cheaper than alternative options.

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein does not seem to have made any similar statements on inversions, either for or against. Two years ago, as the U.S. was nearing the fiscal cliff, Blankfein wrote an editorial for the Wall Street Journal saying the government needed to raise more tax revenue. He said that President Obama had signaled that he was willing to make a deal on corporate tax reform, and Blankfein called for business leaders to work with the president. No deal was ever struck.

Inversions have become an increasingly popular way for U.S. companies to avoid the IRS, and they have come under increasing scrutiny. Fortune’s Allan Sloan recently called corporate executives who do inversions “positively un-American.” What’s more, Sloan argued that inversions undermined the U.S. tax base and that such deals will be bad for all shareholders in the long run.

You know who else is worried about inversions? Economists at Goldman Sachs. The bank recently noted in a report how much money the U.S. could lose in tax dollars because of them. Someone should show that report to the bankers.

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