Could Friday’s news that the Securities and Exchange Commission is bringing civil charges of fraud against Goldman Sachs be the tip of the iceberg? Consider what has happened since then.
The German government is considering legal action against Goldman.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called for investigations into the bank’s role in the mortgage market.
“The SEC is investigating whether other mortgage deals arranged by some of Wall Street’s biggest firms may have crossed the line into misleading investors.
S.E.C. Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami told CNBC, “We have brought and will continue to pursue cases involving the products and practices related to the financial crisis.” … a wide range of cases are currently being investigated.”
Subprime mortgage king Countrywide is also in the crosshairs:
“Federal criminal investigators looking into the collapse of Countrywide Financial Corp. have been calling witnesses before a grand jury, say people familiar with the matter.”
Former Goldman employees are starting to talk, implicating company execs up to and including CEO Lloyd Blankfein in Goldman’s profiting from the housing market collapse.
Dylan Ratigan has a basic explanation of what Goldman and others were doing. The analogy goes like this—they were selling cars with faulty brakes and then taking out life insurance policies on the people to whom those cars were sold.
But it was even more sinister than that. Goldman not only sold the car with faulty brakes, while telling the buyers that the brakes were good, they designed the car to have faulty brakes, knowing that it was going to crash at some point. So they profited on both ends, selling the car they knew would crash and then collecting the life insurance when it crashed.
Those who are quick to dismiss the charges against Goldman as a tempest in a teapot, something that will quickly blow over after the firm pays a small (relative to their size) fine and goes on their merry way should remember this. It was a night watchman who found a piece of tape on a lock on a door at the Watergate Hotel which led to an investigation which culminated in the resignation of a president.
The question now is do we have a modern-day Woodward and Bernstein? Do we have a modern-day Ben Bradlee who will defy the powers that be and publish the information those reporters uncover in spite of the possible repercussions that those powers may bring to bear? Do we have a modern-day Sam Ervin in Congress? Is there a modern-day John Dean? An ethical person with inside knowledge of the activities at Goldman and other Wall Street giants who is willing to talk?
Time will tell.