Senator Levin questioned the CDS trading that took place at Goldman during the crisis again at a hearing on Wednesday.
The Senator points to a couple of emails from Michael Swenson, Goldman’s Managing Director of the Structured Products Group Trading at the time (he’s still there).
The emails Levin says “look like trading abuse,” do look really bad (they are bolded).
Basically, Levin is now piggy-backing on the claims he made back during Goldman’s Senate hearing – that Goldman purposefully bet against the subprime market.
The new claim is that Goldman also squeezed other investors out of the profitable market, so that they could hoard all the money to themselves.
From the Financial Times:
Mr Levin produced e-mails in which Michael Swenson, an executive in Goldman’s fixed-income trading division, told colleagues to offer cut-price credit default swaps on MBSs. As the housing market collapsed in 2007, investors, including Goldman, were rushing to buy default swaps to short MBSs that were losing value.
“We should start killing the . . . shorts in the street,” Mr Swenson wrote in an e-mail to Deeb Salem, a trader, in May 2007. “This will have people totally demoralised.”
But it’s worth waiting until the full email comes out before making any judgments. The Goldman emails the Senate has brought to our attention before have, in some cases, been edited to read a good deal differently than they did in their original form.
However, what Senator Levin seems to be suggesting is that Goldman was trying by ill means to get the biggest possible profit from the credit default swaps on mortgage-backed securities. Levin, of course, believes that Goldman knew the mortgage market was going to hell and that it purposefully bet against the subprime market, in effect causing the financial crisis.
So basically, Levin is now adding to those claims and saying that not only did Goldman bet against the market and profit madly off it, they did their best to make sure no one else proffitted as much as they did off it. What Levin is implying is that Goldman did this by spooking the shorts out of the CDS market (squeezing them out) and thus eliminating the competition which also wanted to buy CDS on MBS, and/or buying the insurance cheaper.
As we said, wait before making any judgment. This is just how it looks right now. The bank says it did not squeeze anything.
Regardless, Levin says the emails are proof that Goldman Sachs adopted a “short squeeze” strategy in order to purchase the CDS on MBS at “artificially low” prices. He said it “looks like trading abuse to me.”
And frankly, it does:
In another e-mail, he said Goldman should reduce prices on CDSs to “cause maximum pain” for existing holders of credit insurance.
Goldman Sachs admitted the emails are terrible, but said there was no wrong doing.
A spokesman told the FT:
“This type of language sounds awful and is very disappointing, but it does not reflect the reality of what happened. There was no short squeeze.”