Big national news at the close of last week: the U.S. Securities Exchange grew a pair and brought securities fraud charges against Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs. It was the first major legal action of the recent economic crisis by the Feds against the financial industry. A lot of great reporting led up to the Goldman charges, but one journalist in particular put the target on Goldman’s back — singlehandedly shifting public opinion of Goldman from a ruthless but respected Wall Street institution, to a “vampire squid sucked around the face of humanity” in his words — Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi.
He might not have broke the actual story that helped the SEC pursue charges — but nobody put the heat on Goldman like Taibbi. After all, This American Life just did a story last week on the investment firm Magnetar — in which it documented the company doing exactly the same practices Goldman stands accused of.
We asked Taibbi why the SEC targeted Goldman, when this kind of thing — selling financial products to consumers and then betting against those same products secretly — was happening all over Wall Street, precipitating the housing crash. Could it have had anything to do with his reporting?
“I would say it was more a direct consequence of [New York Times journalist] Gretchen Morgenson’s reporting — she broke this story.
“I would guess the real reason this is happening now is because banks like Goldman are being uncooperative in the regulatory reform effort — lobbying against the bill — and the government is sending a message back.”
Very modest. We’re willing to give Taibbi a lot more credit than he’s willing to give himself.