Conventional wisdom in legal circles has long held that Goldman Sachs (GS.N) might escape further large fines or criminal charges for its role in the 2007-2009 financial crisis after reaching a $550 million settlement with securities regulators in July 2010.
But news that Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein and other senior executives have hired their own lawyers -- separate from the army of attorneys already retained by the company -- was a powerful reminder for markets that Goldman is still the subject of myriad investigations.
Goldman has confirmed that Blankfein and other executives hired outside counsel when the Justice Department began investigating certain matters raised by the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. [ID:nN1E77L1G9]
Spokesman David Wells said it was a common practice for executives to have separate lawyers from those representing the company, and that Goldman was paying the executives' legal fees. He declined comment on how many executives had hired outside lawyers, or give their names.
Among the legal issues currently facing the bank are:
-- A Justice Department investigation launched after the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations referred its 640-page report on the financial crisis, which included a large section on Goldman's handling of mortgage-backed securities. The panel's chairman, Senator Carl Levin, said Goldman and its executives misled investors and Congress, but said it was up to federal prosecutors to determine if any crimes were committed.
Goldman has said it disagreed with many of the report's conclusions but took seriously the issues addressed.
One deal involving collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) marketed as Hudson, may provide prosecutors with the most compelling case for possible criminal or civil charges, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
-- In June, New York city prosecutors subpoenaed the bank to explain its actions in the run-up to the financial crisis. The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, is not seeking new documents, according to one source, but wants to ask further questions about the information in the Levin report.
-- New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating Goldman as part of a broader probe into the mortgage operations and securitization practices of seven banks. Schneiderman was removed Tuesday from the committee negotiating a nationwide foreclosure settlement with U.S. banks after he objected to a ban on further investigation of fraudulent business practices as part of the settlement.
-- The Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating Goldman's handling of mortgage-backed securities deals. When the SEC settled its case with Goldman last year, it expressly noted that that did not preclude further actions. One source said the SEC viewed the case as a continuing priority.
-- In May, Goldman said the Commodities Futures Trading Commission was investigating its role as a clearing broker for an unnamed SEC registered broker-dealer. The CFTC advised the bank that it intends to bring aiding and abetting, civil fraud and supervision related charges against Goldman, related to its clearing services for the broker-dealer, Goldman said.
-- The Justice Department is also reviewing matters similar to a European Commission investigation initiated last month into the supply of data related to credit default swaps and fee arrangements for clearing of credit default swaps, including potential anti-competitive practices, the filing said.
-- This month, Goldman said the SEC was investigating the bank's compliance with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a case linked to Goldman's dealings with Libya's sovereign wealth fund, according to the Wall Street Journal.