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  I think Carl Levin knows the dance underway. His investigation into the financial meltdown is over. He has forwarded his findingsto the Justice Department for civil or criminal action. And, now, I suspect he thinks there will be an attempt to bury the whole mess--and the specific role Goldman Sachs played in the scams that crashed the economy. So, Levin is keeping the heat on.

  In an interview with the Financial Times, Levin says he has "real hope" that the government will pursue accusations that Goldman Sachs mislead investors and Congress:

Mr Levin added to that in an interview with the Financial Times on the Senate report, which examined Wall Street practices in the run-up to the crisis. The senator was confident officials were taking it seriously. “There’s real hope here that there’s going to be a good scrub by a number of law enforcement entities, so I am not pessimistic about this.”

The senator said Goldman’s payment of $550m to settle fraud allegations from the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the marketing of one structured debt product did not preclude other allegations. He said Goldman executives misled his committee but suggested they might have stopped short of lies with “wiggle words”.

“They obviously spent a lot of time parsing words,” he said, adding he was “not going to judge whether they committed perjury”[emphasis added].

   Two points. As I see it, a veteran lawmaker like Levin, who knows how Washington works, does not go public with an interview in the Financial Times if he isn't concerned. It is pretty typical Washington-speak to say something along the lines that you are confident action is going to be taken--when you are not, and thus you take it public in a high-profile arena.

   Second, in that vein, when you think someone lied to you or committed perjury, you lay that on the table by professing to not be making any judgement about whether perjury was committed. The message is clear, IMHO: Levin believes Goldman Sachs, and, in particular, CEO Lloyd Blankfein lied to Congress. He said as much when he released his findings:

"Our investigation found a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest, and wrongdoing," said Levin.
 

 This is not a trivial matter because, under the law, as a Levin memo pointed out:
Under the federal securities laws, investment banks that act as an underwriter or placement agent are liable for any material misrepresentations or omissions of material facts made in connection with a solicitation or sale of the securities to investors.

   Recall briefly the findings on Goldman from the Levin committee investigation:
 

  1. Securitizing High Risk Mortgages. From 2004 to 2007, in exchange for lucrative fees, Goldman Sachs helped lenders like Long Beach, Fremont, and New Century, securitize high risk, poor quality loans, obtain favorable credit ratings for the resulting residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS), and sell the RMBS securities to investors, pushing billions of dollars of risky mortgages into the financial system.

    2. Magnifying Risk. Goldman Sachs magnified the impact of toxic mortgages on financial markets by re-securitizing RMBS securities in collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), referencing them in synthetic CDOs, selling the CDO securities to investors, and using credit default swaps and index trading to profit from the failure of the same RMBS and CDO securities it sold.

    3. Shorting the Mortgage Market. As high risk mortgage delinquencies increased, and RMBS and CDO securities began to lose value, Goldman Sachs took a net short position on the mortgage market, remaining net short throughout 2007, and cashed in very large short positions, generating billions of dollars in gain.

    4. Conflict Between Client and Proprietary Trading. In 2007, Goldman Sachs went beyond its role as market maker for clients seeking to buy or sell mortgage related securities, traded billions of dollars in mortgage related assets for the benefit of the firm without disclosing its proprietary positions to clients, and instructed its sales force to sell mortgage related assets, including high risk RMBS and CDO securities that Goldman Sachs wanted to get off its books, creating a conflict between the firm’s proprietary interests and the interests of its clients.

    5. Abacus Transaction. Goldman Sachs structured, underwrote, and sold a synthetic CDO called Abacus 2007-AC1, did not disclose to the Moody’s analyst overseeing the rating of the CDO that a hedge fund client taking a short position in the CDO had helped to select the referenced assets, and also did not disclose that fact to other investors.

    6. Using Naked Credit Default Swaps. Goldman Sachs used credit default swaps (CDS) on assets it did not own to bet against the mortgage market through single name and index CDS transactions, generating substantial revenues in the process.

   I also think Levin is on the mark when it comes to the question of the $550 million Goldman paid to settle fraud allegations. At that time, I wrote that the fine was a slap-on-the-wrist. If I--or, in this case, Lloyd Blankfein--could pocket hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation, play a key role in a scam that cost millions of people their jobs, sent the economy into one of the worst economic tailspins in a half century, escape any personal jail time for that scam, not have to admit any wrongdoing and, then, pay a measly fine out of the corporate treasury, not my own pocket, I'd say, "where can I sign up?".

   Levins says this:

He said even large settlements were not satisfactory without admissions of guilt. “If you’re the SEC getting half a billion dollars – if that’s the biggest settlement they’ve ever got – it looks like progress and accountability,” he said. “If you’re out there in the world getting stung by the activity as individuals, or if you’re the public looking at how much money these firms made during this period of time for which a settlement of that size isn’t particularly even a major reduction in their profits, it comes across as being less than accountability.”[emphasis]

   I don't believe accountability is going to come--ever--until a whole slew of these people end by sharing jail cells with Raj Rajaratman.

Originally posted to Tasini on Thu May 19, 2011 at 07:58 AM PDT.

Also republished by Jobs Wages and Community Investment Working Group and Income Inequality Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good thanks hate those Wall $treet (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adam AZ, Calamity Jean

    wrecking balls and bank robbing frauds.

    Tipped and rec'ed!

    The radical Republican party is the party of oppression, fear, loathing and above all more money and power for the people who robbed us.

    by a2nite on Thu May 19, 2011 at 08:05:24 AM PDT

  •  If these things were easier to understand, people (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tasini, gooderservice

    would be angrier.

  •  I don't think it's the difficulty.... (6+ / 0-)

    of understanding the basics.

    It's the outright propoganda machine that keeps people confused, including Fox.

    "It's not the poor banks, it's the lowly brown people who took loans they knew they couldn't afford...."

  •  Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone this month (9+ / 0-)

    covers Levin and Goldman Sachs. He says that if after Levin's forwarding of his findings to Justice, and if Justice does nothing, we can pretty much say out loud to each other that there is no Rule of Law, or rather there is one, but it only pertains to the unwealthy and unconnected.

    I think we are all owed some response by AG Holder as to exactly what his Department is doing in light of the information forwarded to it by Levin.  A lack of response is not acceptable.

    Because of the large Goldman Sachs presence within this Administration, there is the legitimate issue that the impartiality of the Justice Department could be in doubt.

    If the ties are  too close for comfort for the Administration and the Justice Department, a Special Prosecutor should be appointed. (I'm aware that the Special Prosecutor law has expired or something, but that doesn't mean that it can't be fired up again.)

    Meanwhile, Michael Collins reports that Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times reports that the NY State Attorney General my be pursuing charges here

    That's terrific, but the offenses allegedly committed by Goldman Sachs had a national impact and they deserve a Federal response.

    •  Baaaahhh, Hah, Hah ... Baaaahhh, Hah, Hah (0+ / 0-)

      Because of the large Goldman Sachs presence within this Administration

      Henry H. Fowler

      As Secretary of the Treasury from 1965 to 1968, Fowler organized a two-tier system for gold in 1968, and participated in the 1967-68 international agreements, which created a new international monetary reserve system called "Special Drawing Rights."

      After leaving the Treasury Department, Fowler joined Goldman Sachs in New York City as a partner.

      I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

      by superscalar on Thu May 19, 2011 at 09:03:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Who in the administration is a Goldman Sachs (0+ / 0-)

      flunky?  This is not snark, I do not know who you are talking about.

      •  Hmm.... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        katiec

        can we start with, oh -- Tim Geithner?

      •  Watch the movie "Inside Job".... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aliasalias

        can't remember who's connected to Goldman, but don't think it matters -- you'll see just how captured this administration is by Big Banks and their, which ever banks they are.

        •  I saw the movie (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          shrike

          but aside from Summers (who I find to be a complete ass), I did not think they made a strong case against this President.  All they had was guilt by association and then not even directly.  They also covered the terrible but non-criminal practices.  I walked out thinking they made no case for imprisoning people, though I feel like there are people that should be going to jail.

          But I'm interested specifically in who Goldman Sachs  has on the inside, in influential posts with this administration.

          •  Wow, .... (0+ / 0-)

            I came away with feeling like not much has changed since Bush as far as who's arround the Pres.

            Guess it's that whole glass half full/half empty thing.

            How do feel about the prosecution of whistleblowers re: exposing Bush practices, while letting off the actuall offenders?

            I'm not bashing Obama, but think our system is fucked up.

            •  a bit off topic (0+ / 0-)

              but I'm ignorant when it comes to this issue.  I know about Wiki Leaks but I don't know about other whistleblowers.  In the Wiki case I feel torn b/c I don't think it's as black and white as say the pentagon papers.  If they had only released docs on criminal behavior I would give them full support, but the vast majority had no criminal implications and only served to undermine our diplomatic efforts.  But again, I am not claiming any expertise on this subject.  

              I just want to know who is in the Tank with Goldman, but I guess I need to ask how they are in the tank, and how we know.  I thought "Inside Job" did a good job at explaining the meltdown, but that it didn't make a strong case of the criminality of the cause.  Don't get me wrong, I think there are many criminal actions on Wall St and that we do not do enough to investigate and prosecute them.  But I also have seen that this administration has stepped up investigations and prosecutions.

          •  Gene Sperling Just Took Over For Larry Summers (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Adam AZ, aliasalias

            Gene Sperling came from both Goldman and the Clinton administration and before taking the NEC job was a consultant to Tim Geithner.

            I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

            by superscalar on Thu May 19, 2011 at 10:35:25 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  By The Way (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Adam AZ

            Goldman Sachs is a primary dealer and I think that not having somebody from Goldman, Citi, or one of the primary dealers at the Treasury Department is the exception, not the rule.

            I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

            by superscalar on Thu May 19, 2011 at 10:43:14 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  I would have been more accurate to say (0+ / 0-)

        "ties to" as opposed to "large presence within" the administration and if we were able to edit comments I would change my comment to reflect that.

        By the way, Tim Geithner IS NOT a former Goldman Sachs employee.

        BUT, these ties are being discussed. Here is a link to a McClachey article, which I believe most consider to be a credible news source Goldman's White House Connections Raise Eyebrows

        I think it would be to the Justice Department's (and the rest of ours') benefit to lay any doubts to rest.

        I have to applaud Senator Levin. If you read the Rolling Stone article, he and his committee really did their homework.

        •  I thought this stuff was lame when the left tried (0+ / 0-)

          it constantly with Bush.  Meetings between the President and CEOs of major companies should not be automatic red flags.  There can be undeniable conflicts of interest, Chaney & Haliburton come to mind, but in general, just b/c someone is a former employee does not mean they are in the tank and favoring their old employer (there are a few places where I've worked where if I had the power now I'd bring more gov scrutiny not less).  The article you link to does not present any evidence of favoritism on behalf of this administration to Goldman.  

          I'm just sick of this type of implied corruption.  If their is evidence of wrong doing lets get to it, but if all you got is "this guy used to work there but now he works here and did you know they had meetings...", then more homework needs to be done before accusations are made.

          •  Corruption:.... (0+ / 0-)

            What do you call bailing the banks out in the first place?  

            And everything that entails?

            There's a diary about Thomas Drake, the whistlblower.  If I knew how to send links I would.

            Anyway, to think that there's NO corruption in government is silly.  To think that corruption hasn't increased over the last decade is also silly.

            •  I call it avoiding economic and social collapse, (0+ / 0-)

              avoiding a deep depression, saving peoples pensions, etc.  What do you call making the banks pay back the money we lent them (yes, at too little interest).  I did NOT say or even imply there was/is no government corruption, but yes, I am a silly person.

              •  Could have liquidated the banks.... (0+ / 0-)

                while at the same time winding them down to a size that is not too big to fail.

                The free pass was not necessary.

                •  maybe we could have, we don't know what that would (0+ / 0-)

                  have done to people's pensions, the overall market, our national credit, etc.  I don't think TARP (starting under Bush) was a total free pass under Obama and the end of the story isn't written yet.  I believe that yes, the meltdown could have been handled differently, but the way it was handled was fairly successful.  In fact, TARP ended up being one of the most successful gov loan programs ever and Treasury should get some credit.  Government intervention worked and saved our economy.

                  •  TARP is only one aspect of the ongoing.... (0+ / 0-)

                    Geeze, don't even know how to respond....  But the banks are now even bigger.  Yeah, that's good for our economy, cuz you know, the taxpayer is still guarantying them....

                    And TARP was but one, relatively small, aspect of the bailout.

                    •  Trillions, not TARP billions.... (0+ / 0-)

                      have been funneled to the banks.  TARP is small potatoes in the approximately 12 trillion scheme of things.

                      And how has this been good for the economy exactly?

                      •  you must be referring to money spent by the Fed? (0+ / 0-)

                        What the Fed does is not administration policy, if I understand it correctly, they are independent and set their own policy.  But I'm not claiming to be an expert.  I do know that TG has done a great job at getting the Treasury its money back, credit didn't stay frozen long, unemployment didn't come close to depression rates, the stock market (and pension funds) have more or less recovered (in a small amount of time compared to the last financial collapse), people didn't loose their savings from banks closing, almost every economic indicator is showing improvement and have been for a number of quarters, and we still have an auto industry.  I don't know what all you're counting so I'll leave out the Recovery Act stuff.

                        I'm sure things could have been done better.  My point is government did work.  This diary is a testament of government continuing to try work better.  The SEC has been busting alot of chops under Obama and yes, they should bust alot more.  I share the expectation and hope that the DoJ will seek criminal penalties.  I just don't buy the idea that they haven't b/c they are in the tank for the banks.  I think that the vast majority of them (including the higher ups like TG) are working very hard on behalf of the American people.  It's alot easier to be morally outraged by the financial system than it is to put together a rock solid criminal case.

                        Again, I'm a bit out of my element here, but that is why I have to put some faith in government and why I vote Democrat.  I believe government kept thing from getting a lot worse and has started making things a little better (the difference between having people in charge that believe in a functioning government vs those who believe government is the root of problems to begin with).  Critique is good, but so is acknowledging success.

            •  katie, here is how to make a link (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              katiec

              This is just for Daily Kos, but many forums and message boards are set up exactly the same way.

              1. copy the web address in the the address window in your browser from the article you want to link to -in other words,

               highlight the address and right click to "copy"

              2. In the Post comment window you will see the button that says "link" at the bottom. click on that to open it.

              3. When it opens you will see the spot to that says http:// This is where you paste the web address. Put your cursor in that spot and right click to "paste". Your address to your link should show up

              4. Where it says "Label" is where you write what you want to be the text that appears over your link. Lot's of people just write "Read this" or "here" or, you can put the title of the story. When you are done hit the button that says "Add" to the right of the label you just filled in.

              Done! Although it won't look the way you want it to until you preview your post and then you can actually see your hyperlinked (clickable) text and link.

              Hope that helps.

          •  I actually agree with you that the article is on (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            katiec, Brian B, aliasalias, Adam AZ

            the lame side and does not reveal anything  particularly
            earth shattering. It does tell us that:

            Several former Goldman executives hold senior positions in the Obama administration, including Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Mark Patterson, a former Goldman lobbyist who is chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; and Robert Hormats, the undersecretary of state for economic, energy and agricultural affairs.

            I don't think that in itself implies much of anything.

            But,  the impression is out there that the people who have the President's ear,  like Summers, Rubin  Geithner, and his brand new Chief of Staff and others, are boosting the cause of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. It certainly isn't confined to just Goldman Sachs - it encompasses almost all of Big Banking and Equities in general.

            Who has the President's ear and who are his advisers should have absolutely no relevance where the pursuit of justice is concerned. It up to the Justice department to demonstrate that.

            We have had  a meltdown of the entire real estate market and housing equity as a result of the practices of these industries. Millions have lost their homes as a result. Some of those people lost their homes due to mortgage servicer "induced foreclosure" or blatant misrepresentations and forgeries presented to courts - and not just state courts - some of these foreclosures were pursued in Federal Bankruptcy Courts.

            You have the whole side issue of investors who bought what certainly appears to be fraudulent securities - they simply were not backed up by the notes that they were supposed to be backed up with or the notes themselves were misrepresented as to quality.

            There's ample evidence of all kinds of financial frauds, and again, it is not confined to just one company. I think people are wondering when are these guys going to get some punishment other than a civil slap on the wrist and payment of a fine that is a fraction of the ill-gotten gains that they raked in.

            I have followed this stuff very closely for a long time and have made every effort to educate myself about what happened, why it happened, who caused it to happen, and who benefitted or lost as a result.

            These things did not occur as isolated, one of incidents.

            This was no boating accident, it actually was a shark attack. Actually, a pool of sharks. Can we have some justice please?  

            •  Thanks for the comment! (0+ / 0-)
            •  then there's stuff like this (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              katiec

              http://www.rollingstone.com/...

              Well, guess what, sports fans? Barack Obama has apparently decided to bring Gallagher back to serve as an SEC Comissioner. From a Washington Post story:

                  He returned in 2010 to WilmerHale, where he has advised financial companies, William R. McLucas, chairman of the firm’s securities practice, said in a recent interview.

              You can see WilmerHale's list of clients here: it includes Chase, Goldman, and Morgan Stanley. Just FYI, Bill McLucas, the WilmerHale lawyer quoted in that piece, is a former longstanding SEC Enforcement Division chief himself. We can now officially rework the chicken-and-egg joke for all time: what came first, the WilmerHale lawyer, or his SEC appointment?

              Good times on planet Revolving Door.

              without the ants the rainforest dies

              by aliasalias on Thu May 19, 2011 at 12:45:31 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Problem is that (0+ / 0-)
    Securitizing High Risk Mortgages.
    Magnifying Risk.
    Shorting the Mortgage Market.
    Conflict Between Client and Proprietary Trading.
    Abacus Transaction.
    Using Naked Credit Default Swaps.

    none of these things are illegal nor have they ever been illegal.

    Now perjury IS illegal so lets see if those "wiggle words" result in an indictment.

    "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

    by shrike on Thu May 19, 2011 at 08:43:30 AM PDT

    •  perjury (0+ / 0-)

      Isn't it fascinating how, time after time, execs and politicians never learn that it's the lie that gets you in trouble?

      Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini

      Visit Working Life.

      by Tasini on Thu May 19, 2011 at 08:46:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  True for politicians for sure. (0+ / 0-)

        I have followed the cases of many corporate criminals from Fastow and Ebbers to several recent high-profile mortgage executives and those cases rested on materially cooking the books that could be proven with financial forensics.

        The one that got away that really pissed me off was Richard M. Scrushy of HealthSouth who was acquitted on 36 counts by an Alabama jury of good ole boys.  He was obviously guilty as even his former CFO testified.

        Then he started a Christian TV show.

        "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

        by shrike on Thu May 19, 2011 at 08:57:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  "Never" Been Illegal? There's Been a Lot of (0+ / 0-)

      financial deregulation going back into the Carter Admin. Weren't some of the behaviors driving the bubbles and collapse illegal in the past?

      There has to be some reason beyond high marginal personal income taxes that we didn't have such a crash between 29 and 08.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu May 19, 2011 at 09:06:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes but (0+ / 0-)

      the issues are

      Fraudulently Securitizing High Risk Mortgages

      MisrepresentingMagnified Risk

      Lying about Shorting the Market to Congress and Clients

      I agree that conflicts between clients and proprietary trading are not illegal unless there is evidence of underlying fraud and misrepresentation in order to set up and mislead the clients about what they were purchasing

      I don't know how you can just issue a blanket statement that the Abacus deal is "not illegal and has never been illegal" since the SEC differs with your opinion and the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation

      Using naked credit default swaps is legal but should be banned by every country on earth as it is nothing but betting on outcomes (gambling) without any real underlying interest in any security being wagered upon.

      This has been best and most accurately described as akin to allowing people to buy fire insurance for pennies on their neighbors property and then reaping a huge return if and when the property burns although they never had a real interest in the property.

      It's even more horrible if you BUILT your neighbor's house with kerosine soaked lumber and stocked piles of TNT outside and then tossed a lit cigarette in the yard. Gee, how come that house burned down? Glad I had the foresight to buy a naked credit default swap on it. I must be a brilliant financier! (No, you are a sociopathic financial predator thief and destroyer of tangible value and equity)

  •  Goldman Sachs was also pretty good... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aliasalias

    ...at gaming the contents of the mortgage-backed securities they were hawking to make them look reasonable to Moody's, Fitch, and S&P, when in reality they were designed to be ticking time bombs almost guaranteed to go belly-up, losing 100% of value.  And they shorted these securities.

    If that isn't criminal fraud, nothing is.

    Stupid is as stupid elects.

    by TheOrchid on Thu May 19, 2011 at 09:00:50 AM PDT

  •  the ownership society. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe shikspack, Calamity Jean

    the republicans own wall street, and wall street owns the government.   the republicans now want to own your social security and medicare, and our kids' educational system.

    'the ownership society' means that republicans want to own society.

    •  the ownership society isn't only repubs.... (0+ / 0-)

      but lots of Dems too.

      Don't think it serves anyone well to be confused about this.

    •  not so much society, just the tangible assets... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      LivesInAShoe

      check this out:

      WASHINGTON – Freshman Republican Rep. Dennis Ross of Florida proposed privatizing federally-owned lands as a way to reduce the national debt. "I'm not an economist, but I have maintained a household. The federal government owns 70 per cent of Utah, for example. There are federal buildings," Ross told Reuters in an interview published Tuesday. "If you need cash, let's start liquidating."

      The U.S. government owns 57 percent of Utah's territory, the third highest state in terms of federal ownership -- excluding Washington, D.C. -- behind Nevada (85 percent) and Alaska (69 percent).

      Ross's idea isn't a new one. Former Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) was known for proposing legislation to sell off federally-owned national parks and monuments.

      professional sanctimonious purist

      by joe shikspack on Thu May 19, 2011 at 09:41:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  goldman sachs also owns 40% of edmc (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Adam AZ

    edmc is being sued by 11 states, dc, and the doj under the false claims act.

    link

    google edmc lawsuit.  the results are something else.

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