Goldman Sachs announced in a regulatory filing that the Securities and Exchange Commission has closed their investigation into the firm misleading investors on a $1.3 billion subprime mortgage-backed security deal. This represents a flip for the SEC, which notified Goldman of impending action back in February:
In February, Goldman received a so-called Wells notice from SEC staff related to disclosures in the deal’s offering documents. Such notices typically indicate the agency plans to take some kind of enforcement action, and gives firms a chance to respond.
On Monday, the SEC notified Goldman that the investigation had been closed and that it did not intend to recommend any enforcement action against the bank related to the offering, Goldman said in its quarterly 10-Q filing with the SEC.
This Goldman Sachs deal, known as Fremont Home Loan Trust 2006-E (the loans were largely from Fremont, California), is an example of a case where the firm did not properly disclose the nature of the subprime mortgages involved, misleading the investors who purchased the bonds. Goldman still lists $3.4 billion in legal exposure from various lawsuits and cases, up from $2.7 billion in May. But they will not face any SEC enforcement on this deal.
As Dealbook points out, this is another indication that there will be no major prosecutions or investigations into the activities of the financial industry during the 2008 crisis. It’s fitting that this revelation comes out on the six-month anniversary of the establishment of the task force that’s supposed to be investigating securitization fraud, the box into which the Goldman case would fall. Recall that Eric Schneiderman said last night that a Romney Presidency would mean the end of these investigations. He got the dates and the President wrong.
While the S.E.C. has brought more than 100 financial crisis-related cases, including a major action against Goldman in 2010, the agency was aiming to take a final crack at punishing Wall Street for its role in the crisis.
After President Obama announced the creation of a special task force in January to investigate the residential mortgage mess, the S.E.C. and other authorities vowed to hold the banks accountable. Wall Street packaged and sold subprime mortgages to investors, as well as the government-owned mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which suffered billions of dollars in losses.
Goldman’s Fremont deal, known as Fremont Home Loan Trust 2006-E, was one piece of a broader investigation into the mortgage-backed securities. Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have also received warnings of potential action by the S.E.C.
“Mortgage products were in many ways ground zero in the financial crisis,” Robert Khuzami, the agency’s enforcement director, said at a news conference for the task force.
But this never happened. Everyone will turn to the new shiny object of Libor, where action is underway on the prosecution front. But as for the core of the financial crisis itself, the housing bubble and the piling on of CDO risk that intensified the crash, Wall Street will get away with it.
Goldman Sachs executives, wanting rhetorical in addition to physical deference, have sided with Mitt Romney in the Presidential race. But I suspect they see the election as a win-win situation.
Incidentally, there is one bit of exposure left for Goldman on this particular batch of Fremont loans. One federal entity has sued Goldman and other banks for misrepresenting mortgage-backed securities. That would be the Federal Housing Finance Agency. That Ed DeMarco is such a scoundrel.
UPDATE: More on this tomorrow, but the Justice Department has announced that they won’t prosecute Goldman Sachs for the allegations in Carl Levin’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report. So today is “relieve Goldman Sachs of all their underlying legal exposure” day.