The 55-year-old executive was the last Goldman honcho to testify before a Senate panel on Tuesday. The hearing largely related to a 2007 derivatives deal that lost roughly $1 billion for certain clients.
Although Goldman argues that there was nothing unusual about the transaction, it has nonetheless gotten a lot of attention. The
Securities and Exchange Commission
charged Goldman and its trader with fraud, alleging the firm misrepresented the deal to clients who lost money. Goldman denies the charges and pledges to defend itself and its trader.
On Tuesday, Blankfein and several other Goldman representatives -- including Fabrice Tourre, the trader who structured the deal -- sought to provide clarity about the transaction and the way the market operated before the subprime bubble burst. The so-called "Abacus" trade was a "synthetic" collateralized debt obligation -- one of many that piled on additional pain for investors who had been betting that the housing market would remain strong. It occurred within a complex and lightly regulated derivatives market, and the Senate panel was purporting to use Goldman and Abacus as a window into the broader story.
But it was a tense session full of senatorial grandstanding and banker annoyance, which lasted for nearly 11 hours. Blankfein's attitude swayed from confident to exasperated to perplexed, but he was rarely apologetic. (He did squint a lot, though -- seeming to give his best "Dirty Harry" impression when asked puzzling or awkwardly phrased questions by lawmakers.)
>> Here's a look at the many faces of Blankfein.
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"Wait a second... This isn't the Smithsonian!"
Blankfein tries to sway senators with heart-wrenching rendition of
O sole mio
"Ha ha ha, you guys. You expected me to actually read this thing?"
"Well, it depends on what the meaning of 'is' is. Also, the meaning of 'subprime residential mortgage collateralized debt obligation sh*tty crap pool tranche.' "
"Did I mention that I thought all of this was 'very unfortunate'? I was told that might help."
Blankfein is being accused of having foreseen -- and profited from -- the housing sector's implosion. Here he tries to prove he is merely a hypnotist, not a psychic.
"You want the tranche?! You can't HANDLE the tranche!"
After he and his colleagues endure nearly 11 hours of questioning, Blankfein wonders whether happy hour is still going on.
-- Written by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York