The Wall Street Journal this morning reports that executives at Goldman Sachs are readying themselves to receive subpoenas from the Justice Department. Based on a two-year probe, the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations's 638-page report on the financial crisis accuses the company's mortgage-related business of betting aggressively against the housing market, cornering investors into bad deals and promoting its own self interest over those of its clients. However, the subpoenas don't necessarily mean that Goldman executives like Lloyd Blankfein will face criminal charges, despite committee chair Sen. Carl Levin explicitly calling for them. According to The Journal's sources, subpoenas for documents and other information are only the beginning of a long, muddy road to criminal court.
At least one journalist will most certainly continue to shine a light down that path. Matt Taibbi, who last week penned an accusatory Rolling Stone article calling for criminal charges to be issued to Goldman, suggested that the Justice Department skirt around what will inevitably be a years-long battle to charge Goldman with the lofty crimes outlined in Levin's report by slapping perjury charges on those executives who allegedly lied to the Senate during the subcommittee's investigation. He wondered why on earth the Justice Department indicted Roger Clemens for lying to the Senate but hadn't yet brought those same charges against Goldman chiefs:
Lloyd Blankfein went to Washington and testified under oath that Goldman Sachs didn't make a massive short bet and didn't bet against its clients. The Levin report proves that Goldman spent the whole summer of 2007 riding a "big short" and took a multibillion-dollar bet against its clients, a bet that incidentally made them enormous profits. Are we all missing something? Is there some different and higher standard of triple- and quadruple-lying that applies to bank CEOs but not to baseball players?
This is all nevertheless bad news for Goldman. Investment analyst Jeff Harte told the Journal, "Any step in the direction of criminal charges would be bad news for Goldman's stock price."