A source close to the matter at the Securities and Exchange Commission tells FOX Business the agency could bring more civil charges against Goldman Sachs (GS) if revelations out of a new Senate report warrant them.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation’s report, issued Wednesday, alleged that Goldman Sachs misled investors about the health of rotten mortgage-backed securities, as well as lawmakers about its conduct, including that it allegedly didn’t disclose to clients that it had a “big short” position against the housing market while touting investment products that were bullish on the sector.
“The SEC is not inhibited from bringing any future action against Goldman Sachs,” the SEC official tells FOX Business, adding, “Goldman is not fully absolved of its sins, if the information shows a case can be brought. The SEC can still come back to Goldman Sachs.”
Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee’s, said that, after a two-year probe by the panel that included a deep dive into Goldman’s financial records, emails, internal memos and communications, “in my judgment, Goldman clearly misled their clients and they misled Congress.”
Sen. Levin’s office is moving to get the Senate panel to ask the Department of Justice to review potential perjury charges against Goldman Sachs executives, including chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, due to allegations that the executives misled Congress when they denied having “net short positions” in the subprime mortgage market that produced large profits for the firm. The Senate report called those denials “not credible.”
Sen. Levin has also said there would be referrals to the SEC.
Goldman Sachs spokesman Michael DuVally tells FOX Business that the testimony the firm’s executives gave was “truthful and accurate,” and that the firm did not have a “big short” position against the housing market.
The firm has repeatedly said it earned just a half a billion dollars on its mortgage desk in 2007, and lost $1.2 billion in 2008.
Last July, Goldman Sachs settled SEC fraud allegations for $550 million over a deal dubbed Abacus, a complicated asset-backed security linked to subprime mortgages.
The SEC had charged Goldman with “defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts about a financial product tied to subprime mortgages as the U.S. housing market was beginning to falter.”
Almost to the day of the settlement, the U.S. Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which enacted sweeping changes to the financial industry.
Reports had indicated at the time of the Abacus settlement that the SEC had also reviewed 11 other separate Goldman Sachs deals, and that the agency had decided not to pursue additional charges against Goldman over those deals, which includes Timberwolf, a subject of much Senate testimony which Congressional sources say may be the focus of potential perjury charges. (See EMac’s Bottom Line, “Goldman Accused of Misleading Congress, Clients” http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2011/04/14/goldman-sachs-accused-lying-congress/)
But the SEC official says the agency never indicated at that time that it would not bring future charges as warranted on those, or any other Goldman deals.
“The SEC sent Goldman Sachs a letter in July 2010 indicating it looked at a dozen Goldman deals, including the Abacus deal, which Goldman paid a $550 million settlement for,” the SEC official tells Fox Business. “The SEC at that time said the information it had on the other 11 deals didn’t rise to the level of charges.”
The source continued: “But if other evidence arises, we could still pursue another case against Goldman Sachs. Goldman is not fully absolved of its sins, if the information shows a case can be brought. The SEC can still come back to Goldman Sachs.”
When asked whether the SEC is reviewing the new Senate report now, the official tells Fox Business: “It would be hard for us to take it and stick it into a drawer, because maybe the Senate’s got some thing. The SEC is not inhibited from bringing any future action against Goldman Sachs.”
Elizabeth MacDonald joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as stocks editor in September 2007.
Follow Elizabeth MacDonald on Twitter @LizMacDonaldFOX.