In the Goldman hearings today, Sen. Carl Levin kept using a profane, excremental adjective. One Goldman exec used the word in an internal email to describe a mortgage-related security the company sold in 2007.
Throughout the hearing, Levin kept returning to the argument that Goldman should have told clients its opinion of the security. Goldman should also have told clients if it stood to profit if the security performed poorly, Levin suggested.
The Goldman execs basically disagreed with Levin. They argued that when Goldman sold mortgage securities, it was not acting as an adviser to clients. Instead, they said, the company's role was to sell clients whatever they wanted to buy.
"The investors that we're dealing with on the long side, or on the short side, know what they want to acquire," CEO Lloyd Blankfein said. "I don't think our clients care, or that they should care," what Goldman's opinion is, he said.
It went back and forth like this for hours this afternoon, with variations on the theme. But there was one break in the monotony. It came when Levin was questioning David Viniar, Goldman's CFO:
LEVIN: And when you heard that your employees, in these e-mails, when looking at these deals said, God, what a s***y deal, God what a piece of crap — when you hear your own employees or read about those in the e-mails, do you feel anything?
VINIAR: I think that's very unfortunate to have on e-mail.
(The gallery bursts out laughing.)
LEVIN: On an e-mail?
VINIAR: Please don't take that the wrong way. I think it's very unfortunate for anyone to have said that in any form.
LEVIN: How about to believe that and sell them?
VINIAR: I think that's unfortunate as well.
LEVIN: That's what you should have started with.
VINIAR: You're correct. It is.