Fabrice P. Tourre is best known as "Fabulous Fab," the former Goldman Sachs trader whose e-mails about the mortgage crisis became a symbol of Wall Street hubris and will now highlight the government's case against him. As the economy was on the brink of collapse, e-mails show Mr. Tourre joked to a girlfriend that he sold toxic real estate bonds to "widows and orphans."
But an inner circle of friends knows Mr. Tourre from very different dispatches — e-mail updates he sent from Africa during a stint as a volunteer. It was there that "Fabulous Fab," a nickname he earned from a friend in New York, became known simply as "Breezy."
"Rwandan coffee yields have significant room for improvements," he wrote in a March 2011 message to friends, describing his adventure a world away from Wall Street. "Plenty of ideas and projects to focus on, with the ultimate goal to improve coffee farmers' income and living conditions!"
The e-mail, reviewed by The New York Times, provides a rare glimpse into Mr. Tourre's life after Goldman, and after the Securities and Exchange Commission accused him of misleading investors about a mortgage security that ultimately failed. After his trip to Africa, Mr. Tourre enrolled in an economics doctoral program at the University of Chicago, where professors described him as a "standout" whom they selected as a teaching assistant for more junior students.
Mr. Tourre's character will come into focus when his trial opens Monday in a federal courtroom in Lower Manhattan. The human elements of the case, which could be spotlighted when Mr. Tourre takes the witness stand, might sway a jury otherwise bogged down in the minutiae of high finance.
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While Mr. Tourre's time in Rwanda is unlikely to play a role in the trial, he may nonetheless come across as a dynamic professional. Working in his favor, he has already calmly faced a Senate committee. He speaks slowly, the hearing showed, careful to enunciate. Still, jurors may view him as another ambitious Wall Streeter, one with a distinctly foreign accent.
In what is considered the most prominent case stemming from the financial crisis, the S.E.C. is expected to paint Mr. Tourre as a brash up-and-comer at Goldman, willing to sell investors products that were sure to fail. Mr. Tourre's lawyers, in contrast, could try to portray their client as a bit player in the crisis — a midlevel 28-year-old trader at the time of his actions — who has dedicated his time since Goldman to worthy causes and a life of the mind.
"Fabrice Tourre has done nothing wrong," his lawyers, Pamela Chepiga and Sean Coffey, said in a statement. "He is confident that when all the evidence is considered, the jury will soundly reject the S.E.C.'s charge."
Goldman was charged alongside Mr. Tourre, but chose to settle, paying what was at the time a record $550 million penalty, without admitting or denying guilt. That left Mr. Tourre to tackle the S.E.C. alone, though with Goldman's resources financing his fight. Mr. Tourre no longer works for Goldman.