After a yearlong investigation, the Justice Department said Thursday that it won't bring charges against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. or any of its employees for financial fraud related to the mortgage crisis.
In a statement, the Justice Department said "the burden of proof" couldn't be met to prosecute Goldman criminally based on claims made in an extensive report prepared by a U.S. Senate panel that investigated the financial crisis.
"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 statement read.
The Justice Department reserved the right to bring charges in the future if new evidence emerges.
In a statement Thursday, Goldman said: "We are pleased that this matter is behind us."
In April 2011, the U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations published a scathing report on the financial crisis, highlighting Goldman as a culprit. Lawmakers accused the firm of breeding a greedy culture and running conflict-ridden businesses, and they said Goldman put its own interest ahead of clients.
Sen. Carl Levin, D., Mich., chairman of the Senate's subcommittee, said Goldman executives lied to Congress about the firm's bets against the housing market. The accusation triggered a Justice Department probe of possible perjury.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Levin's office didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The report concluded that even as securities firms flooded the market with securitized mortgages and advised clients to buy them, firms privately used words like "crap" and "flying pig" to describe the financial instruments. The department's probe was launched when Goldman's reputation already had been battered by civil-fraud charges filed against the New York company by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC accused Goldman of fraud related to a mortgage-bond deal called Abacus 2007-AC1.
Goldman was accused of failing to inform investors that hedge-fund firm Paulson & Co. had helped choose underlying securities in the deal and was betting against it.
Goldman agreed to pay $550 million to end the SEC's civil-fraud suit. The company said marketing materials for the Abacus deal contained "incomplete information."
David Dayen says:
I swear that “if the Justice Department saw crimes committed, they would have done something” and “it’s a higher bar” are macros on the keyboards of defenders of the lack of prosecutions. But it’s pretty simple to come up with ways to prosecute on this conduct if you really wanted. Just take the Sarbanes-Oxley Act alone.
Oh, and in other great news about the special protective bubble that surrounds the great vampire squid:
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has dropped an investigation into Goldman Sachs Group Inc's role in selling $1.3 billion worth of subprime mortgage securities, the investment bank said in a regulatory filing on Thursday.
In February, Goldman received a so-called Wells notice from SEC staff related to disclosures in the deal's offering documents. Such notices typically indicate the agency plans to take some kind of enforcement action, and gives firms a chance to respond.
On Monday, the SEC notified Goldman that the investigation had been closed and that it did not intend to recommend any enforcement action against the bank related to the offering, Goldman said in its quarterly 10-Q filing with the SEC.
The investment bank also lifted its estimate of "reasonably possible" legal losses to $3.4 billion from a previous estimate of $2.7 billion three months earlier. The estimate does not include potential losses from legal matters that are at an early stage or that are too difficult to predict.
P.S. to Eric Holder: Don't confuse "activity" with "productivity." We all know how to shuffle papers to look busy.