The U.S. Department of Justice has decided not to press criminal charges against Goldman Sachs (GS) or its employees related to accusations from a long investigative report by U.S. senators Carl Levin and Tom Coburn, that the Wall Street firm sold securities it was betting against.
Prosecutors “determined that, based on the law and evidence as they exist at this time, there is not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution with respect to Goldman Sachs or its employees in regard to the allegations set forth in the report,” the Justice Department said yesterday in a statement.
The decision not to prosecute Goldman Sachs comes despite strong accusations that aired in a heated 2010 Congressional hearing by Senator Levin — the chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations — during which he pummeled Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein for hours about why Goldman Sachs unloaded risky subprime mortgage packages to clients known as Abacus 2007-AC1 while betting against them the whole time.[via Bloomberg] “What do you think about your own people selling securities they think are crap?” the senator asked Blankfein referring to Goldman Sachs e-mails in which traders spoke of selling securities to customers….”You shouldn’t be selling junk,” Levin said. “You shouldn’t be selling crap. You shouldn’t be betting against your own customers.”
Blankfein said in his testimony that his firm — dubbed a “great vampire squid” in a 2009 article in Rolling Stone magazine — never bet against its clients for its own profit.
Goldman however, later agreed to pay $550 million to settle federal claims that it misled investors in Abacus as the housing market began to collapse. The settlement represented only a small dent for the firm’s balance sheet, which reported over $13 billion in profit the previous year.
Neil Barofsky, TARP’s former Special Inspector General and a strong critic of the Wall Street bailout who has accused the Obama administration of saving banks at the expense of taxpayers, said the DOJ’s announcement was another reminder that no individual or institution had been held meaningfully accountable for their part in the 2008 financial crisis.[via Reuters] “Without such accountability, the unending parade of megabanks scandals will inevitably continue,” said Barofsky.