China is known for its counterfeit items, with everything from fake Rolexes to iPhones peddled to consumers in the world's most populous country. But now there's a new twist on the counterfeit trend: a fake Goldman Sachs (GS).
There may be a good reason for a Chinese company to knock off that fabled name. After all, Goldman Sachs is one of the most powerful financial firms in the world, with a market value of $80 billion and a hand in everything from underwriting initial stock offerings to managing money for the ultra-wealthy.
The fake Goldman Sachs, called Goldman Sachs (Shenzhen) Financial Leasing Co., operates with a name that's almost identical to the English and Chinese names as the authentic Wall Street firm, reports Bloomberg News. A receptionist at the counterfeit firm told the wire service that it's not affiliated with the New York investment bank, but declined to disclose how the company got its name. She said it was the first time she had been asked that question.
Borrowing names and icons to suggest a link with well-known consumer brands is hardly unknown in China, of course. There's even a term to describe it: Shan Zhai, which means imitation or pirated goods. Michael Zakkour, a contributor to Forbes, wrote about turning up to his hotel in the city of Dongguan, expecting that he had been booked a room at the Hyatt. On closer inspection, he noticed the hotel's name read, "Hiayatt."
"It was a Shan Zhai hotel. An entire hotel!" he wrote.
The counterfeit Goldman Sachs might not get confused with the actual bank, given that the fake firm claims to be one of the largest financial leasing firms in Shenzhen. A spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs told Bloomberg there aren't any ties between the two firms, and that the investment bank is investigating the issue.
The counterfeit name was unearthed when a U.S. casino workers union sent a letter to Chinese officials asking them to investigate the counterfeit firm, which the union claims is a financial services company linked to a group of gambling companies with ties to Macau. The union wants regulators to investigate Macau for possible ties to money laundering and organized crime, Bloomberg notes.
It's unclear whether the real Goldman Sachs would have any recourse in China. Other firms and brands have had mixed success stopping counterfeiting, with basketball star Michael Jordan losing a trademark suit in the country earlier this year.