Sen. Levin grills Goldman Sachs execs during the long investigation into financial crash.
WASHINGTON -- Goldman Sachs executives deceived clients in order to profit off the brewing financial crisis and then misled Congress when asked to explain their actions, concluded a top lawmaker who led a two-year investigation into Wall Street's role in the meltdown.
Carl Levin, chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, will recommend that Goldman executives who testified before his panel, including chairman and chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, be referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution, the Michigan Democrat announced Wednesday. Members of the subcommittee will now deliberate Levin's proposal.
A Goldman spokesman said its executives were truthful in their testimony, adding that the firm disagreed with many of the panel's conclusions.
Two and a half years after a historic crisis that has yielded not a single criminal conviction of anyone who played a leading role in causing it, the prosecution of such a high-profile Wall Street executive may satisfy the public's desire to see culprits brought to justice. Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission settled a lawsuit it had brought against Goldman.
But the firm was just one target of a sweeping, 639-page report by the Senate panel into the causes of the crisis. Hardly a fluke occurrence, the meltdown was the product of a deeply corrupt financial system, one fueled by profit-hungry banks that deceived their clients, and overseen by lax regulators who were complicit in the firms' chronic abuse of the most fundamental rules of the game, the report concludes.
The investigation found a "financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest, and wrongdoing," Levin said.
More than any other government report produced in the wake of the crisis, this account names names, blaming specific people and institutions: Goldman Sachs, Washington Mutual, Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's, the Office of Thrift Supervision and others. It targets four types of institutions, all of which it says played key roles in causing the crisis: mortgage lenders that offered prospective homeowners booby-trapped loans; regulators that were paid by the institutions they were regulating and cooperated in widespread deception; rating agencies that gave seals of approval to products they knew to be especially risky, all in the pursuit of market share; and Wall Street banks that duped investors into buying securities that only the insiders knew were destined to go bad.
"Blame for this mess lies everywhere from federal regulators who cast a blind eye, Wall Street bankers who let greed run wild, and members of Congress who failed to provide oversight," said the panel's ranking member, Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican.