By Lauren Tara LaCapra
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc disclosed estimates of potential losses from legal issues after pressure from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission staff, according to documents released on Friday.
In a letter to Goldman on February 22, Stephanie Hunsaker, the senior assistant chief accountant in the SEC's division of corporate finance, questioned an assertion by Goldman management that the bank was unable to come up with solid loss estimates.
Hunsaker said the assertion by Chief Financial Officer David Viniar "appears unusual" and requested that Goldman revise its financial statement to provide loss estimates and additional disclosures about legal matters, or an explanation for why it could not.
The SEC has been pushing banks to provide more disclosures about their legal liabilities, which has become a major investor concern.
Last year, Goldman spent $700 million on lawyers hired to defend the bank in various lawsuits and also spent $550 million to settle civil fraud charges with the SEC.
In addition to civil suits filed by private parties, Goldman also faces probes from the SEC, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Justice Department, the New York Attorney General and the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Goldman responded to the SEC's request that it disclose more information by estimating its "reasonably possible losses" for legal matters to be approximately $3.4 billion in its annual report for 2010 filed on March 1. That figure was adjusted to $2.7 billion in Goldman's first-quarter report.
The SEC also asked Goldman for more information about its impairment of intangible assets for its designated market maker rights, growth rates for components of its equities business, its decision to separate principal lending and investing activities and its potential costs for repurchasing residential mortgage-backed securities.
Other large banks, including Bank of America Corp, Citigroup Inc, Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Morgan Stanley, have also disclosed more information in recent quarters related to legal costs and mortgage repurchases.
(Reporting by Lauren Tara LaCapra; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)