Goldman shares fall 4.9 pct amid legal woes

Thu May 12, 2011 1:13pm EDT

* Two analysts downgrade shares

* Bloomberg poll finds negative sentiment on Goldman

* Goldman share trading volume is double daily average

By Lauren Tara LaCapra and Brenton Cordeiro

NEW YORK/BANGALORE, May 12 (Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) shares fell as much as 4.9 percent on Thursday after two analysts downgraded the stock and press reports said the bank's profits and reputation might suffer.

A Bloomberg poll of 1,263 traders, investors and analysts showed 54 percent hold a negative opinion of the bank, which is facing regulatory probes, lawsuits and public scrutiny.

Veteran bank analyst Richard Bove downgraded Goldman Sachs on Thursday to "sell" from "neutral," citing factors including potential legal pressure on the bank and a negative piece in Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi, who once famously described Goldman as a "vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity."

Goldman shares were down $6.41 to $141.47 in afternoon trading after falling as low as $140.67 earlier in the session. Trading volume was twice the daily average.

The Bloomberg survey results, released Thursday, come just days after Goldman disclosed that Commodity Futures Trading Commission staff has recommended the agency file charges against the bank following a probe of its clearing business.

The bank also confirmed that the Justice Department is investigating its actions in the derivatives market in 2007. Those matters were first targeted by the Securities and Exchange Commission in a civil fraud lawsuit last year and were brought up again in a 650-page report from a congressional subcommittee.

Standard & Poor's equity analyst Chris Maimone downgraded Goldman to "hold" from "buy" and lowered his target price to $156 from $176.

Bove said public pressure could force Goldman to change.

"It is clear to outsiders that there must be a major restructuring of the company at the board and executive suite levels or Congress will not be satisfied," said Bove. "The company continues to fight such a change." (Reporting by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York and Brenton Cordeiro in Bangalore; editing by John Wallace)

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