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Goldman Sachs Finally Admits it Defrauded Investors During the Financial Crisis

Apr 11, 2016

Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs (gs) has agreed to a list of "facts" in addition to paying $5.1 billion to settle a lawsuit related to its handling of mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2007 financial crisis, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.

It's a definite improvement on the DoJ settlements of a few years ago when Wall Street firms were able to get away with saying they "neither admit or deny the charges." But it's unlikely to quell critics that say the government hasn't done enough to punish bankers in the wake of the financial crisis. Just like in past settlements, no individual bankers have been charged with wrong doing.

(For more on Fortune's award-winning story on Goldman and mortgage bonds: House of Junk)

From 2005 to 2007, Goldman issued and underwrote many mortgages and securities that had been backed by residential loans borrowed by consumers with shoddy credit ratings. That helped tip the economy into recession after the housing bubble burst in 2007, leading to a tsunami of foreclosures and delinquencies. That caused billions of dollars in losses for investors. The settlement mentioned mortgage loans that had been originated by Countrywide, Fremont, and others. Countrywide was bought by Bank of America is early 2008. Fremont is no longer in business.

Goldman agreed to pay $2.39 billion in civil penalties, and another $1.8 billion in relief in the form of loan forgiveness and financing for affordable housing. An additional $875 million will be paid in cash to resolve claims from other federal and state entities.

“This resolution holds Goldman Sachs accountable for its serious misconduct in falsely assuring investors that securities it sold were backed by sound mortgages, when it knew that they were full of mortgages that were likely to fail,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery in a statement.

As part of the settlement, New York-based Goldman agreed to a list of facts put together by the DoJ that stated Goldman had misled investors about the mortgage-backed securities while knowing that the repackaged loans were indeed riskier than what they had told investors.

Goldman also agreed to say the bank had failed do to its due diligence. In one case, the bank's due diligence noticed an "unusually high" percentage of loans with credit and compliance of defects. When asked by Goldman's Mortgage Capital Committee: "How do we know we caught everything?" A transaction manager responded "because of the limited sampling ... we don't catch anything." No further due diligence was undertaken.

In January, Goldman disclosed that it had agreed to pay the government $5 billion in relation to its role in the financial crisis, though the exact terms of the term had not been hashed out. The bank has already set aside funds for many of the charges. Goldman set aside $4.01 billion in legal expenses for all of 2015.

But don't think $5 billion is the total penalties Goldman has accumulated as a result of the financial crisis. Back in 2010, the bank paid $550 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that it had misled investors into buying financial instruments tied to subprime mortgage bonds. In that settlement, Goldman paid the fine, but neither admitted nor denied wrong doing. In 2014, the bank also agreed to pay $3 billion to the Federal Housing Finance Agency to settle claims with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. There are also many other private lawsuits that have been filed against the investment bank related to mortgage bonds.

Goldman Sachs is the fifth bank to reach a multibillion-dollar settlement with the Department of Justice in relation to subprime mortgages during the Great Recession. Other bank settlements include $13 billion with J.P. Morgan Chase; $16.6 billion with the Bank of America; $7 billion from Citigroup; and $3.2 billion from Morgan Stanley.

Goldman is scheduled to report first quarter earnings on April 19.

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