Rolling Stone's maverick-in-residence Matt Taibbi has been waiting to watch Goldman Sachs executives go to jail for a while--at least since 2009 when he called Goldman the "great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." So far only one banker has been convicted and sentenced to jailtime, and Taibbi seems impatient lately."Why Isn't Wall Street In Jail?" reads the headline on a recent Rolling Stone feature. The story's lede sums it up with this quote from an unnamed former Senate investigator: "Everything's fucked up, and nobody goes to jail. That's your whole story right there. Hell, you don't even have to write the rest of it. Just write that."
Released today, the latest installment of Taibbi's manifesto against all things Goldman sets up a pretty simple proposition based on the recently released 650-page report from Senator Carl Levin's Subcommittee on Investigations, detailing the collapse of the American financial system. Taibbi wastes no time with whodunnit paragraphs, instead setting the smoking gun on the doorstep of the Department of Justice. Like a rewriting of the Senate investigator's above quote, Taibbi declares, "Everything's fucked up, and it's time for Goldman Sachs to go to jail. You don't even have to investigate because the Senate did it for you. Just issue those subpoenas."
The article is worth a read, but since you're probably busy still recovering from the crisis, we've put together some highlights. While sometimes a bit confusing around the fine details of financial assets--unavoidable, really--the writing is typical Taibbi: full of fun analogies, including one really excellent that uses volleyball players to explain what "the CDO-squared" means. It's also very, very angry at Goldman Sachs and everyone else behind the crisis. But mostly Goldman Sachs:
Defenders of Goldman have been quick to insist that while the bank may have had a few ethical slips here and there, its only real offense was being too good at making money. We now know, unequivocally, that this is bullshit. Goldman isn't a pudgy housewife who broke her diet with a few Nilla Wafers between meals — it's an advanced-stage, 1,100-pound medical emergency who hasn't left his apartment in six years, and is found by paramedics buried up to his eyes in cupcake wrappers and pizza boxes. If the evidence in the Levin report is ignored, then Goldman will have achieved a kind of corrupt-enterprise nirvana. Caught, but still free: above the law.
Then there's an Upton Sinclair reference:
For years, the soundness of America's financial system has been based on the proposition that it's a crime to lie in a prospectus or a sales brochure. But the Levin report reveals a bank gone way beyond such pathetic little boundaries; the collective picture resembles a financial version of The Jungle, a portrait of corporate sociopathy that makes you never want to go near a sausage again.
The report--which Levin sent to the Department of Justice, the ones who actually should've compiled it according to Taibbi--makes clear, Taibbi says, that Goldman Sachs deceived its customers and robbed the American people. Since a case based on that could take years bouncing between lawyers and loopholes, Taibbi says we should simply do what we did to Roger Clemens: bust Blankfein for perjury and send him to jail while we wait.
It seems kind of obvious, right? Taibbi quotes Eliot Spitzer saying if he were still attorney general, "[he'd] be dropping so many subpoenas." So what are we waiting for? The final plea:
This isn't just a matter of a few seedy guys stealing a few bucks. This is America: Corporate stealing is practically the national pastime, and Goldman Sachs is far from the only company to get away with doing it. But the prominence of this bank and the high-profile nature of its confrontation with a powerful Senate committee makes this a political story as well. If the Justice Department fails to give the American people a chance to judge this case — if Goldman skates without so much as a trial — it will confirm once and for all the embarrassing truth: that the law in America is subjective, and crime is defined not by what you did, but by who you are.
Read the whole article for yourself if you want the official Taibbi take on Levin's report.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.