Not exactly the same as "cowboy up" but Reuters is reporting Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO has hired an top defense litigation attorney from DC, Reid Weingarten, a man who represented many senior executives in his time including former Enron executives in "white collar" criminal matters:
(Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein has hired Reid Weingarten, a high-profile Washington defense attorney whose past clients include a former Enron accounting officer, according to a government source familiar with the matter.
Blankfein, 56, is in his sixth year at the helm of the largest U.S. investment bank, which has spent two years dodging accusations of conflicts of interest and fraud. [...]
"Why do you bring in someone like that?" said the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly. "It says one thing: that they're taking it seriously."
Blankfein has not been charged in any civil or criminal case, and it was not immediately clear why he hired Weingarten.
David Wells, a spokesman for Goldman, declined to comment. [...]
Goldman shares fell sharply shortly after Reuters reported Weingarten's hiring, closing down 4.7 percent at $106.51, their lowest level since March 2009.
Smoke, fire etc. Certainly the market investors in Goldman Sachs aren't pleased, probably because Blankfein has made them a lot of money over what many consider activities that the Department of Justice should long ago taken a hard look at. In any event, here's Reid Weingarten, Esq.'s resume of past clients:
A partner with Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Weingarten has represented a wide array of clients in criminal cases. They include former WorldCom Inc chief Bernard Ebbers, who was later convicted, and former Enron accounting officer Richard Causey, who pleaded guilty in exchange for a 5 to 7-year prison term.
In May, Weingarten won the acquittal of former GlaxoSmithKline lawyer Lauren Stevens on charges of lying and obstructing a probe into the company's marketing practices.
"I'm used to these monstrously difficult cases where everybody hates my clients," Weingarten told AmericanLawyer.com in May, although he described Stevens as a "beloved figure."
Considering the stories that the DOJ has asked the New York Attorney General to back off criminal investigations of the Wall Street investment bankers' involvement in the the derivatives scandal, market manipulation of the housing market, the great foreclosure scam and the fiscal crisis that led the US government and the Federal Reserve to pour trillions of dollars into the banking system supposed to keep our economy from crashing, this is a somewhat surprising development. I'll certainly be watching to see what if anything develops.
It may be nothing, but in my former life as a banking industry lawyer, no one hires a gunslinger like Weingarten unless they have something to hide, have serious fears of prosecution and potential criminal liability and believe that the need to get the best "hired gun" available outweighs the negative publicity that such a move typically generates for the company.
UPDATE: Found this little tidbit buried in a WSJ article that tries very hard to spin this favorably for Goldman and Blankfein:
The firm was subpoenaed in June by Manhattan prosecutors who are looking into questions raised in April by the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which was probing the securitization activities of several companies, including Goldman.
Suggests to me that the initial lawyers who went through the document search found some things that suggested all was more than a little hinky in the senior executive suite. Up to now, Goldman has always taken the position that "rogue traders" of whose activities it had little knowledge were the rotten apples in an otherwise squeaky clean barrel. Guess that is no longer necessarily the case.
It also suggest that, since story this was leaked by a "government source" to reporters either someone in the DOJ is pressuring the administration to follow through on information it already possesses regarding the investigation into the role played by Goldman and others in our fiscal crisis that Wall Street and its "derivatives bubble" created, and/or pressuring Goldman to dump Blankfein. After all, on the news that Blankfein had hired Weingarten, GS sock took a 5% hit today.
UPDATE 2: Just a reminder to review this article in Rolling Stone by Matt Taibbi regarding the evidence we already know about illegal and suspicious activities by Goldman Sachs that would justify criminal prosecutions by the DOJ. A brief excerpt:
But Goldman, as the Levin report makes clear, remains an ascendant company precisely because it used its canny perception of an upcoming disaster (one which it helped create, incidentally) as an opportunity to enrich itself, not only at the expense of clients but ultimately, through the bailouts and the collateral damage of the wrecked economy, at the expense of society. The bank seemed to count on the unwillingness or inability of federal regulators to stop them — and when called to Washington last year to explain their behavior, Goldman executives brazenly misled Congress, apparently confident that their perjury would carry no serious consequences. [...]
But beginning in the mid-Nineties, when former Goldman co-chairman Bob Rubin served as Bill Clinton's senior economic-policy adviser, the government began moving toward a regulatory system that relied almost exclusively on voluntary compliance by the banks. [...]
But spiking almost all criminal referrals wasn't enough for Wall Street. In 2004, in an extraordinary sequence of regulatory rollbacks that helped pave the way for the financial crisis, the top five investment banks — Goldman, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns — persuaded the government to create a new, voluntary approach to regulation called Consolidated Supervised Entities. CSE was the soft touch to end all soft touches. Here is how the SEC's inspector general described the program's regulatory army: "The Office of CSE Inspections has only two staff in Washington and five staff in the New York regional office." [...]
By the end of 2006, Goldman was sitting atop a $6 billion bet on American home loans. The bet was a byproduct of Goldman having helped create a new trading index called the ABX, through which it accumulated huge holdings in mortgage-related securities. But in December 2006, a series of top Goldman executives — including Viniar, mortgage chief Daniel Sparks and senior executive Thomas Montag — came to the conclusion that Goldman was overexposed to mortgages and should get out from under its huge bet as quickly as possible. Internal memos indicate that the executives soon became aware of the host of scams that would crater the global economy: home loans awarded with no documentation, loans with little or no equity in them. On December 14th, Viniar met with Sparks and other executives, and stressed the need to get "closer to home" — i.e., to reduce the bank's giant bet on mortgages.
Sparks followed up that meeting with a seven-point memo laying out how to unload the bank's mortgages. Entry No. 2 is particularly noteworthy. "Distribute as much as possible on bonds created from new loan securitizations," Sparks wrote, "and clean previous positions." In other words, the bank needed to find suckers to buy as much of its risky inventory as possible. Goldman was like a car dealership that realized it had a whole lot full of cars with faulty brakes. Instead of announcing a recall, it surged ahead with a two-fold plan to make a fortune: first, by dumping the dangerous products on other people, and second, by taking out life insurance against the fools who bought the deadly cars.