After two days of deliberation, a jury found former trader Fabrice "Fabulous Fab" Tourre liable on six out of seven counts of fraud on a mortgage deal that cost investors $1 billion when it collapsed in the midst of the financial crisis.
The charges were related to Tourre's role in Abacus, "one of the worst-performing mortgage deals of the housing crisis." Goldman Sachs created the "set of sure-to-fail" subprime mortgage securities "exclusively" for John Paulson, the hedge fund manager featured in Michael Lewis' book "The Big Short."
Paulson wanted to bet against subprime, but he was having trouble: mortgage securities are mashed-together bundles of all kinds of mortgages, some of good quality, some of excellent quality, and some of subprime quality. Paulson wanted a purely subprime product so that he could bet against it. Goldman Sachs created such a product for him.
Then, Goldman, without telling clients that Paulson had effectively created the securities so he had a better chance of winning, sold them to clients such as Germany's IKB and the Royal Bank of Scotland. Those clients, active investors in subprime mortgages, both needed government bailouts later. Goldman later argued that those clients were too dim and lazy to do their homework and see the securities were destined to fail. The SEC argued that those investors were taken for a ride.
Last month, Dealbook detailed how the SEC fought "vociferously to exclude troves of evidence," from trial, including the fact that Touree was a scapegoat, as his self-aggrandizing/self-pitying emails made clear.
The government has argued that Mr. Tourre is part of a “scheme” to defraud investors, but the government has not charged anyone else. The S.E.C. insists that jurors not be told that.
For the SEC, the verdict offers a rebuttal to critics who have accused the agency of seeking to make fairly junior employees, such as Mr. Tourre, scapegoats for Wall Street’s wider failings.
Goldman Sachs paid a pitiful $550 million fine related to these same charges in 2010, all while admitting no wrongdoing. Then last summer, the Justice Department decided to drop any criminal charges against Goldman Sachs for its role in the subprime mortgage crisis, nevermind selling its own clients products they knew were "crap."
The SEC finally wins a financial crisis case against a 30-something mid-level trader. Nicely done.— Stephen Gandel (@stephengandel) August 1, 2013
In the Guardian, Moore called the trial, "the kind of Kabuki theater that regulators love, but which will not actually accomplish the goal of holding anyone really responsible for the financial crisis."
Putting him on trial for the mortgage sins of Abacus, or other mortgage securities, is like prosecuting a footsoldier for war crimes. Meanwhile, the generals – the high-ranking executives who gave the orders – continue to collect payouts worth millions of dollars because they are under the protective wing of Goldman Sachs. The SEC most likely knows that it has neither the money nor the clout to reach that far.
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