Goldman's latest defense: no evidence, no victims

By Katie Benner, writer

(Fortune) -- The SEC's recent civil action against Goldman Sachs has inspired not one, but three company responses, each more lengthy and detailed than the next. In the latest installment, Goldman continues to deny any wrongdoing and begins to build a defense against the SEC's case, which hinges on whether the bank improperly handled conflicts of interest.

The firm is working to absolve itself of the accusation by placing any bad judgment on the shoulders of a lone employee and claiming that the rest of the firm was completely transparent with its clients. In short: It was all the fault of Goldman trader Fabrice "fabulous Fab" Tourre and there were no victims.

Wall Street bloggers and reporters have been wondering when the bank would pin its less-than-savory CDO deal on Tourre, with DealBreaker noting that this newest press release basically throws our French friend under the bus.

"The core of the SEC's case is based on the view that one of our employees misled these two professional investors," Goldman says in its statement. "Goldman Sachs would never condone one of its employees misleading anyone, certainly not investors, counterparties or clients."

Then the firm says, "Were there ever to emerge credible evidence that such behavior indeed occurred here, we would be the first to condemn it and to take all appropriate actions."

While the firm stands by Fab right now (a spokeswoman told Reuters that he is still employed, even though he has made a personal decision to take time off) it has left the door open to nail him should any "credible evidence" emerge.

The release also impresses upon readers that the people who lost money were professional institutional investors - German bank IKB and bond insurer ACA Capital. Goldman says the investors were Wall Street veterans and sophisticated enough to know exactly what they were getting into.

Goldman describes the "single transaction in 2007" as one that involves "two professional institutional investors." The firm goes on to say, "The SEC does not contend that the two professional institutional investors involved did not know what they were buying, or that the securities included in this privately placed transaction were in any way improper. These institutions were very experienced in the CDO market."

In the narrative told by the release, Goldman was nothing more than a middleman, allowing incredibly knowledgeable and responsible parties to interact. The statement leads the reader to believe that Goldman played the part of a madam facilitating an encounter between an escort and a client. Everyone knows the risks and if, say, the client's spouse finds out and files for divorce, well it's hardly the middleman's fault."In this private transaction, Goldman Sachs essentially acted as an intermediary, helping to facilitate the investing objectives of two clients," the firm says in its statement. "In summary, the SEC's complaint is an issue of disclosure on a single transaction involving professional investors in a market in which they had extensive experience."

One angle of the SEC's complaint still unexplored by Goldman's statements is just how involved hedge fund manager John Paulson was in structuring the Abacus CDO. The SEC says Paulson isn't under fire, leading Fortune to wonder last week, "why not?" Will the firm explain its relationship with Paulson? We'll stay tuned for statement, the fourth. To top of page

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