A newly released set of internal Goldman Sachs emails offers further evidence of how the investment firm knowingly bet big against the housing market—what one top executive called its "big short"—and even wagered against mortgage-tied products of its own creation. The documents, released this morning by a Senate committee investigating Goldman and other investment firms, will fuel charges that Goldman positioned itself against the interests of its clients and most Americans. And while not as severe as the Securities and Exchange Commission's ongoing suit against Goldman, the emails are sure to heap more pressure on the under-fire Wall Street titan.
In one October 2007 email exchange, a member of Goldman's fixed income, currency, and commodities desk, Michael Swenson, discusses the now-infamous mass downgrades of $32 billion of mortgage bonds by the rating agency Moody's that month. Those downgrades all but killed the subprime mortgage market, resulted in huge losses on Wall Street, and woke banks and traders up to the realization that the housing bubble was about to burst. For Goldman, though, that was good news, the emails show. In that same exchange, Swenson says Goldman's asset-backed securities desk "will be up between 30 and 35 [million]" on news of the downgrades. Another Goldman staffer responds, "Sounds like we will make some serious money."
A May 2007 exchange inside Goldman includes information on the "wipeout" of a mortgage security from Long Beach Mortgage Company, a former subsidiary of the failed bank Washington Mutual. The security also happened to be underwritten and sold by Goldman. One Goldman staffer says this is bad news, because it'll cost the firm $2.5 million; however, the same staffer adds that because Goldman had bet against that very same security, it netted $5 million, easily covering its losses.
24 hours later, our heads are still spinning from the National Magazine Awardsgala last night. MoJo has been nominated in the General Excellence category each year for the past three; we won in 2008 and again this year. That's an amazing honor that belongs to everyone here—from the CEO, publisher, and board of directors all the way to our fearless interns. But it also belongs to you, our readers, who sustain this operation in a way that really unprecedented in the publishing industry. Some of you help by spreading the word about MoJo on Facebook and Twitter; many of you subscribe, and tens of thousands of you also donate. To know that our readers value the kind of fiercely independent journalism—"tough and tenacious," the magazine award judges called it—is the thing that's kept us going through a pretty rough time for media. (Okay, that and the hot chocolate mix in the kitchen.) So please consider this Ellie your own. Just be careful when you set it on the mantle. Those pointy things are sharp.
File under: Abysmal Timing. Just a week after the Securities and Exchange Commission filed an audaciouslawsuit against Goldman Sachs—Wall Street's most-hated casino—comes a revelation that a few dozen SEC employees, including a few lame-ass higher-ups, have been downloading porn on their government computers for years. It's probably a tempest in a teapot, given that you would likely find such misbehavior at any large agency at any time if you bothered to look. But it's still a major embarassment for an agency trying to remake it's public image after blowing it so completely on Bernie Madoff. Mary Schapiro must be pissing her pants right about now.
The Inspector General's office conducted investigations of 33 SEC employees, nearly all since 2008, according to a case summary requested by Senator Charles Grassley and obtained by the Washington Post:
A senior attorney at SEC headquarters in Washington admitted he sometimes spent as much as eight hours viewing pornography from his office computer, according to the report. The attorney’s computer ran out of space for the downloaded images, so he started storing them on CDs and DVDs that he stored in his office.
Grassley's people claimed the timing was coincidental. Right. Meanwhile, Cali Congressman Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was quick to score some points for his party, which has lost a few by opposing the administration's relatively feeble attempt to reform Wall Street. "This stunning report should make everyone question the wisdom of moving forward with plans to give regulators like the SEC even more widespread authority," Issa told the Post.
President Barack Obama has strongly denounced a "misguided" Arizona immigration bill that would give police unprecedented authority to question and arrest people because of their immigration status. Obama said Friday morning that the legislation would "open the door to irresponsibility by others" and "threaten to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe," Politicoreports. Obama added that he has instructed his administration to closely monitor the civil rights implications of the bill.
The president also suggested that the Arizona bill—which the state's GOP governor, Jan Brewer, has until Saturday to sign or veto—pointed to the urgent need for federal-level immigration reform. "If we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country," Obama said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have also indicated that a comprehensive immigration overhaul could happen this year, even ahead of a climate and energy bill.
In fact, Obama reached out this week to Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and other Senate Republicans to ask them to consider supporting immigration reform. And in a conference call Thursday night, Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who released his own reform bill last year, reiterated the need for GOP backing in the House as well. Estimating that an immigration bill would gather about 200 or 205 Democratic votes, Gutierrez said, “We’re going to need about 20 Republicans. This is not rhetoric from the Democratic Party trying to slip and slide away, it’s just true—we have to go and find them.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), has set the stage for a full Senate debate on the financial reform bill to begin Monday evening. Reid's decision to charge ahead on overhauling Wall Street—and not let closed-door talks drag on—drew fire from Republicans, like Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.), who said a Monday cloture vote "would be unfortunate in view of the fact that both sides of the negotiations say that progress is being made." That said, Reid's push looks to be dividing Senate GOPers, who can't seem to agree on a unified strategy on financial reform, the Wall Street Journal reports. A bigger question, though, is whether all of Reid's own Democratic brethren stand behind his latest plan.
While numerous Dems took to the Senate floor yesterday to stump for the finance reform bill, an animated Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said that not only were Republicans objecting to Reid's push but admitted that some "on the majority side as well" didn't necessarily want a Senate-wide debate so soon. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the majority whip, told Roll Call last week that he, too, wasn't sure whether all 59 Democrats supported the bill. That could mean Reid, Dodd, and other top Democrats merely need to twist a few more arms to ensure everyone's on board. Or are there some Senate Democrats not ready to take the financial reform battle to the floor?
When Sens. John Kerry, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman release their climate bill on Monday, they expect to have the backing of three of the five major oil companies, Mother Jones has learned. In a conference call with a coalition of progressive business leaders on Thursday evening, Kerry said he believes those companies will "actively participate in supporting this bill." He hopes the other big oil companies will at least hold their fire on the bill, and added that he believes the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil industry's major trade group, will call off its ad campaign attacking the legislation.
Kerry also said that the Edison Electric Institute—the main trade group representing utilities—will support their measure. "We are bringing to the table a significant group of players who were never there for the Waxman-Markey bill," Kerry said. (Whilie Edison supported Waxman-Markey, it was opposed by several big oil companies and API).
After President Barack Obama on Thursday delivered a speech on Wall Street reform in which he decried the "battalions of financial industry lobbyists descending on Capitol Hill, as firms spend millions to influence the outcome of this debate," I noted that the president had done "what too many politicians often do when they describe how special interests game Washington; he stayed vague." That is, he named no names. He didn't call out the specific firms, CEOS, or lobbyists trying to thwart the financial regulation reform legislation he's pushing. Today, ThinkProgress shows why it would be important if Obama did that: because, naturally, the lobbyists themselves refuse to out themselves.
As Obama was delivering that speech in New York City, financial lobbyists were holding a fundraiser in Washington for Senate Republicans. The obvious goal: help those who have been helping Big Finance block Wall Street reform. ThinkProgress reports:
The invitation to the fundraiser, obtained by the Party Time blog of the Sunlight Foundation, shows that the it was hosted by lobbyists Wendy Grubb, Kirsten Chadwick, Scott Reed, and a variety of corporate PACs. Grubb is a top lobbyist for Citigroup, a bank that took taxpayer TARP funds and has yet to repay them. Chadwick, a former staffer to Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), is a lobbyist for Zurich Financial Group, a financial services conglomerate.
ThinkProgress, along with several other journalists, waited outside of the fundraiser at the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) building. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) walked quickly past reporters into his car, refusing to take questions. Both Sens. Cornyn and George Lemieux (R-FL) dodged reporters by driving into the NRSC’s underground lot. Although ThinkProgress tried to ask both GOP lawmakers and the other attendees of the fundraiser about regulation reform legislation, only Charlie Black spoke to us. Black is a longtime corporate lobbyist who now represents a variety of investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, within a trade group called the "Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association."
ThinkProgress attempted to talk to the attendees of the event, but everyone other than Black refused to even provide their names.
And that's on this delicious video:
According to Obama, these guys are attempting to thwart legislation that is essential for the security of the US economy. The public ought to know who they are.
Pfc. Alejandro Munoz, a military policeman with Headquarters Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, stands underneath a once-useful footbridge, ensuring that the traffic through the area is clear during a meeting with local contractors, on April 6. Photo via the US Army.