The back and forth between Lloyd Blankfein and six current and former Goldman Sachs executives was largely unsatisfying, as supporters and haters of Goldman each found plenty to support the views they already held going into Tuesday's hearing.
(GS) Senator Carl Levin (D., Mich.), who chaired the hearing, seemed senile and clueless at times, until he would suddenly seize on the right line of questioning and transform himself into a deeply powerful moral figure and the hearing into a meaningful event. Similarly, the Goldman executives he faced off against appeared smug and unrepentant on some occasions, and unfairly persecuted at other times.
Goldman Chief Financial Officer David Viniar appeared almost desperate at times to do anything in his power to satisfy the senators and the public. Viniar may have come the closest to doing so when he first called it unfortunate that a Goldman executive had referred to a deal the bank was marketing as "shitty" in an e-mail, before Levin made him realize that the mistake was selling the product in the first place.''
(GS) The hearing went on so long, and the senators appeared so out of their league at times with regard to financial markets-related questions, that there were plenty of moments that made little sense at all.
(GS) One senator asked Viniar what he thought should be done about Fannie Mae (FNM) (Stock Quote: FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) (Stock Quote: FRE), a question so perplexing that regulators and politicians have essentially ignored it for nearly two years. Viniar said he had no opinion. No opinion, the senator cried. This is a $2 trillion dollar question and you're in the middle of the financial markets. We need your help to figure out what to do! Ah.
(GS) (FNM) (FRE) An exchange between Blankfein and Levin captured by Reuters was typical of many in the hearing in which senators tried to squeeze some admission of guilt out of the bankers, but were stymied as the bankers retreated into a lecture about the role of the "market maker" — a subject of interest to few people who do not work on Wall Street.