Fed Inspector Turned Whistleblower Reveals System Rigged For Goldman Sachs

Five years after we first reported on the "Goldman whistleblower" at the NY Fed, Carmen Segarra, the former bank examiner is out with a new book based on more than 46 hours of secret recordings. 

"Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street" is a 340-page exposé which vastly expands on the breadcrumbs Segarra has been dropping since word of her recordings first came to light, according to the New York Post.  

Segarra was a former bank examiner who looked into Goldman Sachs for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and claims she got fired in 2012 after making too much noise about Goldman’s alleged conflicts.

The New York Fed has often been blasted for its lackadaisical approach to overseeing banks leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. Its last president, William Dudley, was named in 2009 after spending 21 years at Goldman. But Segarra’s book claims that the problem persisted for years after the crisis, with regulators happy to act on the banks’ behalf.

We want [Goldman] to feel pain, but not too much,” her boss — who goes by the pseudonym Connor O’Sullivan in the book — told her, Segarra claims. -NY Post

The recordings were made over a seven month period while Segarra worked at the New York Fed. Neither Goldman nor the NY Fed have disputed the authenticity of the tapes. 

Central to allegations of shady reglulation was a 2012 deal in which energy giant Kinder Morgan would acquire rival El Paso Corp. for $21.1 billion - a deal which Goldman advised both sides of, while "its lead banker advising El Paso, Steve Daniel, owned $340,000 in Kinder Morgan stock" according to the Post

That didn't matter to newly minted CEO David Solomon, who took over for Lloyd Blankfein last week. 

"A conflict is a perception, OK, of something that could affect the advice you’re giving, the judgment, et cetera," said Solomon during a secretly recorded meeting with the New York Fed. "Our job … is to discuss those things and to work collectively with [clients] to decide whether or not those perceptions inhibit us.

Solomon made the comments after Delaware Judge Leo Strine referred to Goldman's double-dealing in the Kinder - El Paso deal "disturbing" and "tainted by disloyalty" when he reluctantly OK'd the deal (and despite a class-action lawsuit brought by El Paso shareholders, alleging that the deal was designed to benefit Goldman). The shareholders ultimately won a $110 million judgement, wiping out the $20 million it would have collected in fees. 

Segarra describes the New York Fed as "conflict-ridden, with regulators trading on inside information from bankers they're supposed to keep in line," writes the Post

When Segarra told one unnamed colleague that insider trading was illegal, he quipped, “Not if you don’t get caught,” according to the book.

Another boss, Michael Silva, pushed Segarra to gloss over the fact that Goldman didn’t have a written conflict-of-interest policy, she claims. Silva, who now works in private practice, declined to comment.

Goldman spokesman Jake Siewert denied impropriety, telling the Post that "For decades we have had a dedicated team that reviews potential transactions to assess both potential conflicts and client sensitivities given the broad reach of our client franchise," and that "the firm takes that responsibility seriously, and the head of that group sits on our most senior leadership team."

Segarra's new book isn't the only bad press Goldman has received recently - after the New York Times reported in September that Solomon urged James Katzman, a former Goldman banker, to drop 2014 complaints that other traders tried to milk him for inside information. Solomon chalked Katzman's concerns up to nothing more than "the way Wall Street worked." 

Goldman calls the exchange a miscommunication. 

Meanwhile, the New York Fed says of Segarra's claims: "We continue to categorically reject Ms. Segarra’s allegations from her brief seven-month tenure as a junior examiner almost seven years ago," according to spokeswoman Andrea Priest, who added that "the staff of the New York Fed work diligently and with the utmost integrity in the fulfillment of their responsibilities."

Then again, Goldman is paid a $50 million penalty to settle accusations that former banker Rohit Bansal took New York Fed analyst, Jason Gross, to Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn - while receiving secret examination documents in return. Both men received probation and paid fines.