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Goldman Bankers React to Subpoena News

Tuesday, 24 May 2011 | 5:01 PM ET
Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein
Getty Images
Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein

At an fashionable hotel bar on a recent night in New York, a trio of Goldman Sachs investment bankers were discussing the news that federal prosecutors are expected to issue subpoenas for documents related to Goldman’s mortgage business.

All wore solid-colored shirts without jackets. The shirts were open at the neck. Their shoes were narrow, sleek and a bit scuffed.

“Do we even have any of those that haven’t been turned over?” the youngest member of the group said. He wore a pink shirt.

“Wasn’t the complaint of the FCIC that we turned over too many documents?” said the one in a pale blue shirt.

“Disco! I think this is all just for show. They need to do something to keep the sheeple happy,” said the other one in a pale blue shirt.

Goldman’s mortgage machinery is fairly well-trod ground. It has been featured in books on the financial crisis. It has been the subject of a lawsuit filed by the SEC. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission poured through tens of thousands of pages of documents Goldman produced in response to committee requests, prompting the FCIC to complain that Goldman was thwarting its investigation by “dumping” documents. The Senate Subcommittee on Investigations used Goldman as a “case study” for its view of what happened in the financial crisis.

It is not clear what documents could possibly remain undiscovered or what might still remain unknown about the way Goldman operated ran its mortgage securitization and trading businesses.

Mr. Pink Shirt ordered a round of drinks, while Blue Number 1 and Blue Number 2 discussed possible scenarios.

It is possible, they agreed, the Justice Department is investigating Goldman for perjury before one or more of the investigative bodies before which its executives testified. The chair of the Subcommittee on Investigations, Senator Carl Levin, said in a press conference in April that he was referring testimony before his panel to the Justice Department for possible perjury. He was since made it clear that he was only calling for more investigation, rather than directly making an accusation.

Another possibility, raised by Mr. Pink, is that the Justice Department is looking into securities fraud or even some version of insider trading. The SEC’s case against Goldman was originally an accusation that Goldman had committed fraud. The Justice Department did not bring any charges at that time.

One indicator of the types of charges being considered might be which part of the Justice Department sends the subpoenas. If they come from the US Attorney’s office in NY, it’s probably not an investigation into perjury. The testimony by Goldman executives took place in Washington, DC, which would mean that only the D.C. based US Attorney’s would have jurisdiction.

The two blue-shirts regaled the pink shirt with tales of what it was like to be a young investment banker at Goldman Sachs before the financial crisis. The pink shirt had joined Goldman only two years ago.

“You can’t imagine what it was like. We were kings,” a blue shirt said.

All three took long drinks from the new round of cocktails.

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