For the second time in history, federal regulators have accused an American state of securities fraud, finding that Illinois misled investors about the condition of its public pension system from 2005 to 2009. In announcing a settlement with the state on Monday, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Illinois of claiming that it had been properly funding public workers’ retirement plans when it had not. In particular, it cited the period from 2005 to 2009, when Illinois also issued $2.2 billion in bonds.
Barry Ritholtz is very confident that Goldman Sachs is either going to lose or settle and wants to educate interested non-lawyer observers1 about certain assumptions being promulgated that are not accurate.
8. The case looks thin: What we see in the complaint is the bare minimum the prosecutor has to reveal to make their case. What you don’t see are all the emails, depositions, interrogations, phone taps, etc. that the prosecutors know about and GS does not. During the litigation discovery process, this material slowly gets turned over (some is held back if there are other pending investigations into GS).
Going back to who the prosecutor in this case is: His legal reputation is he is very thorough, very precise, meticulous litigator. If he decided to recommend bringing a case against the biggest baddest investment house on Wall Street bank, I assure you he has a major arsenal of additional evidence you don’t know about. Yet.
Typically, at a certain point the lawyers will tell their client that the evidence is overwhelming and advise settling. That is around 6-12 months after the suit has begun.
9. This case is Political: I keep hearing that phrase, due to the SEC party vote. It is incorrect. What that means is the case is not political, it means it has been politicized as a defense tactic. There is a huge difference between the two.
The Securities and Exchange Commission decided to sue Goldman Sachs Group Inc. over the objections of two Republican commissioners, suggesting an unusual split at the agency that could politicize one of its most prominent cases in years.
People familiar with the matter said the five-member commission held a lengthy meeting Wednesday to debate the civil-fraud charges against Goldman, and ultimately voted 3-2 in favor of pushing forward. The charges were filed Friday.
Normally the agency prefers to have unanimous support when bringing enforcement actions against the firms it regulates. Word of the SEC split could exacerbate partisan tensions in Washington over the Obama administration’s proposed financial-regulatory overhaul.
On Tuesday, SEC Chairman Mary Schapiro is likely to get a grilling over the internal dissent when she appears before the House Financial Services Committee for scheduled testimony.
People familiar with the vote said Ms. Schapiro—a registered independent—joined two Democrats on the commission, Elisse Walter and Luis Aguilar, in supporting the fraud case against Goldman. The two Republican commissioners, Kathleen Casey and Troy Paredes, were opposed, they said.
Again, this sounds like whining to me, there are five members of the SEC for a reason, just like there are 12 jurors in a criminal case, and 9 Supreme Court justices, sometimes there are differences of opinion on important matters. Expecting that every decision is unanimous translates into Doing Nothing, and while that is the Republican mantra, the rest of us would like Wall Street to be reined in.
Poor lil’ Goldman Sachs didn’t get a memo from the S.E.C. before the case went public. Of course, when the police arrest a serial killer they give at least 48 hours to the suspect so that the evidence can all be boxed up neatly. Right? I don’t care if this is common practice for Wall Street criminals, it shouldn’t be. I hope the Security and Exchange Commission has changed their modus operandus, and no longer is complicit with covering up financial malfeasance.
Funny also how the Republicans are all for law and order, when it applies to non-white collar crimes, but when their donor class is threatened, the tune changes.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. officials said they knew as far back as August 2008 that regulators were examining controversial mortgage securities created by the firm but were stunned by the bombshell civil fraud suit lodged against it Friday, with most having learned about it from news reports.
Firms typically get a chance to settle such suits, but not in this case, Goldman said. The Wall Street giant said it was alerted to the probe in the summer of 2008 and was warned that it might face a suit in July 2009. It says it then responded in detail to the Securities Exchange Commission’s inquiry in September, but heard nothing back from the government until Friday’s unveiling of the civil suit. The SEC usually notifies firms ahead of a lawsuit as a courtesy to give them a chance for a last-ditch settlement or to prepare for the public fallout.
Lawsuits by the SEC are subject to a vote by the agency’s five commissioners, and the tally on the Goldman case will be closely watched in Washington, as the current commission is split along party lines—with two Republicans and two Democrats, plus one independent who was appointed by President Obama.
The way the SEC launched the suit “certainly doesn’t follow the spirit” or practice of the agency, said Paul Atkins, who served as a Republican SEC commissioner.
Goldman Sachs, aka Gold Sacks, aka corporate criminals, are not having a good PR month. They are an easy target – so greedy, so arrogant that even their allies are keeping mum. Whether any real penalties will be levied against Goldman Sachs remains to be seen.
Paul Krugman writes, in part:
Most discussion of the role of fraud in the crisis has focused on two forms of deception: predatory lending and misrepresentation of risks. Clearly, some borrowers were lured into taking out complex, expensive loans they didn’t understand — a process facilitated by Bush-era federal regulators, who both failed to curb abusive lending and prevented states from taking action on their own. And for the most part, subprime lenders didn’t hold on to the loans they made. Instead, they sold off the loans to investors, in some cases surely knowing that the potential for future losses was greater than the people buying those loans (or securities backed by the loans) realized.
What we’re now seeing are accusations of a third form of fraud.
We’ve known for some time that Goldman Sachs and other firms marketed mortgage-backed securities even as they sought to make profits by betting that such securities would plunge in value. This practice, however, while arguably reprehensible, wasn’t illegal. But now the S.E.C. is charging that Goldman created and marketed securities that were deliberately designed to fail, so that an important client could make money off that failure. That’s what I would call looting.
And Goldman isn’t the only financial firm accused of doing this. According to the Pulitzer-winning investigative journalism Web site ProPublica, several banks helped market designed-to-fail investments on behalf of the hedge fund Magnetar, which was betting on that failure.
So what role did fraud play in the financial crisis? Neither predatory lending nor the selling of mortgages on false pretenses caused the crisis. But they surely made it worse, both by helping to inflate the housing bubble and by creating a pool of assets guaranteed to turn into toxic waste once the bubble burst.
and the part that interests me, as a non-Wall Street banker, will the proposed financial reforms stop future meltdowns?
The obvious question is whether financial reform of the kind now being contemplated would have prevented some or all of the fraud that now seems to have flourished over the past decade. And the answer is yes.
For one thing, an independent consumer protection bureau could have helped limit predatory lending. Another provision in the proposed Senate bill, requiring that lenders retain 5 percent of the value of loans they make, would have limited the practice of making bad loans and quickly selling them off to unwary investors.
It’s less clear whether proposals for derivatives reform — which mainly involve requiring that financial instruments like credit default swaps be traded openly and transparently, like ordinary stocks and bonds — would have prevented the alleged abuses by Goldman (although they probably would have prevented the insurer A.I.G. from running wild and requiring a federal bailout).