Yesterday, a Senate subcommittee investigating Wall Street’s role in the recent financial collapse released a massive, 639-page report documenting the role mortgage lenders, investment bankers, and insufficient regulatory checks on Wall Street played in creating America’s worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. But this congressional investigation could lead to much more public scrutiny into one of Wall Street’s biggest players. In a statement announcing the report’s findings, subcommittee chair Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) suggested that Goldman Sachs could face criminal charges:
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said on Wednesday that he plans to refer Goldman officials, and potentially officials from other organizations, to the Justice Department for possible prosecution and to the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible civil proceedings.
“In my judgment, Goldman clearly misled their clients and they misled the Congress,” said Levin, the chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. [...]
Levin said prosecutors should look at not only Goldman’s statements to the public about its investment products, but also the statements officials made to Congress. Goldman officials, including chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, gave testimony that was “inaccurate,” Levin said. It is a crime under federal law to make a false statement to Congress or to obstruct congressional proceedings.
Levin’s investigation drew headlines after he grilled a top Goldman executive for continuing to push investors to purchase an investment that Goldman described as a “shitty deal” in its internal emails. As the Levin report explains, Goldman’s management “sent out numerous sales directives or ‘axes’ to the Goldman sales force, stressing that [selling the shitty deal] was a priority for the firm.”
This deal was just one example of Goldman “profit[ing] from the failure of many of the…securities it had underwritten and sold.” As the report explains, Goldman frequently touted securities that it expected to fail to outside investors, and then bet against those securities by taking a “short position” on them. In total, Goldman “generated net revenues of $3.7 billion” by betting against securities, while their alleged victims were left with an investment that was worth only a fraction of what they paid for it.