In January 2007, Fabrice Tourre, the French trader accused of defrauding Goldman Sachs' investors by selling them mortgage-backed bonds he believed would fail, wrote the following in an email to a friend: "The whole building is about to collapse anytime now... Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab... standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstrosities!!!" Fab's investors lost a billion dollars during the housing market collapse, but Goldman Sachs and client John Paulson, a hedge fund manager who helped package the bad bonds, cashed in. Now, in an apparent attempt to trademark the word "hubris," the bank intends to pay $5 billion in bonuses, on par with what they paid back in 2007.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown blasted Goldman yesterday, telling the BBC, "I am shocked at this moral bankruptcy. This is probably one of the worst cases that we have seen." Brown is calling for a "special investigation" into Goldman in cooperation with the S.E.C., which filed a civil lawsuit on Friday against the bank. The lawsuit, which only names Tourre, accuses Goldman of selling subprime mortgage bonds to investors that they thought might default, while also buying insurance on them, thereby profiting when the bonds plunged and defaults spread.
The intensifying outrage about the SEC allegations comes as President Obama pushes legislation that would force banks to be more transparent about the sale of complex derivatives. (Obama will visit Wall Street on Thursday.) Many Republicans have vowed to fight the bill, but yesterday Senator John McCain, during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, said, "When we find out that Goldman Sachs was betting against its own investors and, you know, playing the double game—and I'm sure we're going to find out they weren't the only ones—look, things have got to change in the way that they do business."
32,500 Goldman Sachs employees worldwide will received the bonuses, with a handful of top traders expected to be in line for multi-million-dollar bonuses, the Sunday Times reports. Meanwhile, the bank's stock plummeted 13% in the wake of the S.E.C. lawsuit on Friday. Adding insult to injury, Goldman Sachs knew nine months ago that it was a target of federal regulators, but didn't disclose it to stockholders, who have lost as much as $12 billion. Under S.E.C. rules, Goldman was under no obligation to disclose the subpoena, because information about legal proceedings doesn't have to be made public if the amount involved doesn't exceed 10 percent of a firm's assets. "It's a horrendous rule . . . a joke," one former SEC official told The Post.