16 April 2010

SEC Formally Charges Goldman Sachs In Derivatives Fraud with Paulson and Company - another 'Rogue Trader at Work?'

“Only fraud and falsehood dread examination. Truth invites it.”
Dr. Samuel Johnson

The SEC is formally charging Goldman Sachs with fraud in the derivatives markets, specifically with regard to Collateralized Debt Obligations related to subprime mortgages.

Investors in Goldman's Abacus CDO lost one billion dollars.

In addition to the company, an individual VP in Goldman's international group is being charged, Fabrice Tourre.

Paulson and Company, a major hedge fund, paid Goldman to structure a CDO based on mortgages that Paulson selected, so that they could bet against it.

"The product was new and complex, but the deception and conflicts are old and simple. Goldman wrongly permitted a client that was betting against the mortgage market to heavily influence which mortgage securities to include in an investment portfolio, while telling other investors that the securities were selected by an independent, objective third party,” said Robert Khuzami, director of the division of enforcement.
This could be construed as a deft way of throwing red meat to the angry mob, nailing a specific individual at Goldman while limiting the criminal charges against the company although there will be significant civil cases, and dealing with the billionaire hedge fund owner Paulson who made a fortune betting against the subprime market.

This could be more damaging if this includes other Goldman bets against its customers on products it represented and created, and it shows an overall intent to create fraudulent products for the purpose of shorting them. For now the SEC will not say if this fraud is a singular event or more systemic.

Goldman will almost certainly attempt to spin this as the actions of a 'rogue trader' who was an aggressive exception.

Last week the White House asked Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein to 'cool it' on their intense lobbying efforts against derivatives and financial reform.

Perhaps this will help them in their decision.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The Wall Street Banks are knee deep in fraud.

No one can obtain the kind of consistently odds defying returns that Goldman was producing without either cooking the books or engaging in some type of gaming the system, which is a polite word for fraud. That is the same 'tell' as the steady and outsized returns that Madoff is producing.

Let's see if this goes any deeper, and if serious punishments and reforms result.

The SEC can only enforce the Securities Laws, but cannot bring criminal charges. Since Paulson is not being charged, since he made no representations regarding the products, only Goldman is being sued by the SEC. Their alleged gain in this is $15 million dollars, the fees it obtained from Goldman. And Goldman will say that they were only serving their customer, Paulson.

Certainly Goldman will be subject to civil lawsuits and discovery. But the real test of the Obama government will be any role that the Justice Department does or does not take in this. They could of course defer, using the show trials of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission as a rationale to take no action.

This is blatant fraud and white collar crime being conducted by an organization that is paying contributions to half the Congress and the Administration, and staffing key positions in the government with its employees. Do you really think it will be brought to full disclosure and equal justice?

In a statement Goldman says that "The SEC’s charges are completely unfounded in law and fact and we will vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation." Fabrice Tourre was last seen being thrown under a bus, and could not be reached for comment.

Watch the Justice Department and the Obama Administration to see what they do or do not do, and you will be able to know their character and intents. But in fairness the big Broker-Dealers in the US are RARELY indicted for anything. They virtually own the country's political and justice system.

"I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat cat bankers on Wall Street." Barack Obama to CBS News.

Time do something besides talk the US to death about what you are going to do, and how the Republicans and lobbyists are getting in your way, and how great it will be when you finally do it. The SEC is relatively toothless, and probably by design. The FCIC will be tramping in the weeds for the rest of the year.

You do not need the Republicans, and you do not need the Congress, to fully engage the Justice Department and the FBI in investigating this fraud, Mr. Obama.

The most likely outcome will be a disgorgement of profits and a wristslap, and a promise by Goldman to change its business practices, while admitting no wrong. That will be the 'business as usual' outcome, and a sign that reform is an illusion.

Meanwhile, the market manipulation continues. I thought it was cute the way in which the metals bears used this news to sell the market in an attempt to sustian their huge naked short positions. "Never waste a crisis."

The US Congress reacts to the scandalous news.

Breaking news on breaking the rules, more to follow.