During today's hearings with Goldman Sachs execs on Capitol Hill, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) got into it with former mortgage chief Dan Sparks over whether he and his colleagues felt they had a responsibility to tell clients when betting against their trades. This is a huge story, needless to say: the firm made billions off the market's collapse, while investors and the American public were hopelessly screwed. The volume of emails and what they reveal is massive and complex—but sometimes, stories like these are best approached one detail at a time. Here's a good, small place to start:
Levin pointed to a particular transaction that one of Sparks' bosses termed a "shi**y deal" in an email. The Senator used the phrase "shi**y deal" at least a half dozen times at the hearing. Sparks did not respond directly, and said it was not his own description of the transaction.
Later in the day, when asked about the email, Chief Financial Officer David Viniar said, "I think that's very unfortunate to have on email."
People in the gallery laughed, and Senator Levin said, "On email? How about feeling that way?"
Viniar said, "I think it's very unfortunate for anyone to have said that, in any form."
Levin asked about whether it was unfortunate to believe it, and Viniar said, "I think that's very unfortunate as well."
Some protesters inside the chambers wore striped prison outfits and held pink signs reading "SHAME."
Lawmakers, Goldman execs clash at hearings (MSNBC/Reuters)