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Feds to Investigate Goldman for Possible Criminal Violations

It seems that the Goldman Sachs executives testifying before Congress this week didn’t do a very good job convincing the powers that be that their investment strategy of recent years was perfectly kosher. Just days after the SEC sued Goldman for civil violations in connection to a mortgage deal that appeared designed to fail, the Justice Department on Friday announced its own criminal investigation into the transaction. The Associated Press broke the story:

Word of the Justice Department action came a day after a group of 62 House lawmakers, including Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., asked Justice to conduct a criminal probe of Goldman. “On the face of the SEC filing, criminal fraud on a historic scale seems to have occurred in this instance,” the lawmakers, mostly Democrats, said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

While this is hardly good news for Goldman, The New York Times points out that the real burden here is on the Justice Department:

Federal prosecutors would face a higher bar in bringing a criminal case against Goldman, whose role in the mortgage market came under sharp scrutiny this week during a marathon hearing in the Senate. In contrast to civil cases, the burden of proof is higher in criminal ones, where prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The stakes are high for Goldman, but they are also high for the United States attorney’s office. Prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York lost a case last year filed against two hedge fund managers at Bear Stearns, whose collapse presaged the turmoil on Wall Street.

This, of course, means that we’ll be reading plenty more about those emails coming out of Goldman’s office in the weeks surrounding the deal in question. And, for exposing the sheer egomania of those running the firm, that can’t be a bad thing.

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