Wall Street's Mr. Fabu-less

Goldman Sach's "Fabulous" Fabrice Tourre makes his opening statement to Congress.
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fabulous Fab was having another less-than-fabulous day.

Goldman Sachs whiz kid Fabrice Tourre is fast becoming the poster boy of the financial crisis, a Michael Milken for the current times. Last week, the SEC filed fraud charges against Goldman Sachs and the 31-year-old Frenchman who calls himself Fabulous Fab. And on Tuesday, Fabulous sat before a Senate panel that wanted to know how he helped a hedge-fund tycoon make a billion dollars by dumping worthless mortgage securities on unsuspecting Goldman customers and then betting against those same securities -- all the while accelerating the burst of the housing bubble and the downfall of the world economy.

"The whole building is about to collapse anytime now," Fabulous wrote in one of the e-mails that have come to light. "Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab . . . standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstruosities!!!"

Fabulous, in an e-mail from 2007, described the mortgage business as "totally dead, and the poor little subprime borrowers will not last too long!!!" Yet two months later, he boasted that he had managed to dump some more of the worthless mortgage securities on "widows and orphans that I ran into at the airport."

Now Tourre is a triple-exclamation-point "monstruosity" himself -- and, in true Goldman form, he made few apologies as he testified before the Senate investigators on Tuesday. "I deny categorically the SEC's allegations," said Fabulous, short, slight and looking as though he were on a break from prep school. "I will defend myself in court against these false claims."

Yes, the e-mails were problematic. "I regret these. . . . I wish I hadn't sent those." In his French accent, it came out more like "regret zeez" and "sent doze."

But that was the extent of Fabulous Fab's regrets. "I firmly believe that my conduct was correct," he testified.

Fab's arrogance, and that of his Goldman colleagues who also testified, bested previous displays of hubris by the automotive, oil and tobacco industries. Goldman won't be done in by new congressional regulations or the SEC claims (though both will have more sympathy after Tuesday's performance), but the firm will be in big trouble if customers realize how brazenly Goldman has been abusing them.

The testimony was so maddening that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, was moved to utter phrases not suitable for a general audience. Twelve times he used a word that rhymes with "ditty" and has to do with what would be called "la merde" in Fabulous Fab's native tongue.

"Look what your sales team was saying about Timberwolf: 'Boy, that Timberwolf was one [censored] deal,' " Levin quoted. "They sold that [censored] deal. . . . How much of that [censored] deal did you sell to your clients?" Pardon his French.

One of the Goldman masters of the universe, Michael Swenson, couldn't even be troubled to learn the pronunciation of the ranking Republican's name. He called Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.) "Cobourne."

Coburn asked who made the decision on one of Goldman's bets against mortgage securities.

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