“Nervous? What would I be nervous about?” Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein echoed in June, when we asked him if he was worried about the possibility that his firm might face criminal charges for its mortgage-backed securities activities. “I’m not worried that there’s any criminal activity,” said Blankfein. Nor was he concerned that he, personally, would be sent to “pound me in the ass prison,” as a source of Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi colorfully put it. “Do I think I’m going to be convicted of a crime? No,” he continued, a bit crossly. “I don’t think anyone really thinks I missold CDOs in mortgage desk and picked up the phone and called people and did that, so.” But it was such an odd time, we said to him. People were so angry. Wasn’t he worried about being made an example of?
“No,” he said again. “If I were that cynical about America, then I’d feel nervous,” he continued. “Do you think that could happen? You think you could be innocent and victimized for nothing? Well that’s a sad statement. You should check yourself, then.” (Yes, he said “check yourself.” Remember, Blankfein is one with the pop culture.)
But as it turns out, at the time of our interview Blankfein may have already retained criminal-defense attorney Reid Weingarten, after the Senate referred Carl Levin’s report on the financial crisis to the Justice Department. When the news broke on Monday evening that Blankfein had hired Weingarten, who previously defended the embattled executives of WorldCom, Tyco, and Enron, Goldman shares plunged more than 5 percent.
“As is common in such situations, Mr. Blankfein and other individuals who were expected to be interviewed in connection with the Justice Department’s inquiry into certain matters raised in the [Senate] report hired counsel at the outset,” Goldman spokesman David Wells told the Journal.
It seems there’s a little cynic in Lloyd Blankfein, after all.
This post has been updated with additional information.