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Senators, start your questions

At a Senate hearing on Goldman Sachs, there's what they said, and there's the other stuff.

May 09, 2010|John Kenney

" 'Mr. Birnbaum, do you know what a stated income loan is?' Sen. Kaufman asked.

'I think it's just what it sounds like,' Birnbaum replied."

Exchange between Josh Birnbaum, the former Goldman Sachs managing director, and Sen. Ted Kaufman during recent Senate hearings on Goldman Sachs.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Mr. Birnbaum, do you know what a stated income loan is? I ask this not because I doubt for a second that you actually do know what a stated income loan is, but because I want to appear condescending and tough on Wall Street, despite receiving millions of dollars from firms like yours.

MR. BIRNBAUM: Thank you, senator. I'd like to use sarcasm in my response and say that I have no idea what a stated income loan is. You'll notice that my facial expression suggests otherwise. Also my raised middle finger.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Noted. I'm looking at Exhibit 231-A. Do you see it?

MR. BIRNBAUM: No. I'm thinking about the show "Jersey Shore."

SEN. KAUFMAN: I find myself both repulsed and fascinated by Mike "the Situation."


SEN. KAUFMAN: I am taking off my glasses and then putting on my glasses to appear serious.

MR. BIRNBAUM: I am tempted to take off my pants to be more comfortable.

SEN. KAUFMAN: I loathe you, and I loathe your face.

MR. BIRNBAUM: My watch cost more than your car.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Thank you, Mr. Birnbaum.

MR. BIRNBAUM: Thank you, senator.

SEN. KAUFMAN: Sen. Levin would now like to verbally assault the former trader, Mr. Fabrice Tourre, who once referred to himself as — and I am quoting here — the Fabulous Fab. I should note that he is French, although that in no way will prejudice this committee, except for the fact that it will prejudice this committee in large part because we can't stand French people.

SEN. CARL LEVIN: Good morning, Mr.Tourre. Let me start by saying that I would like to slap your accent.

MR. TOURRE: Good morning, senator. And may I say that if you were food, you would be a boneless breast of chicken.

SEN. LEVIN: Your e-mails to your girlfriend make me laugh.

MR. TOURRE: Your salary makes me laugh.

SEN. LEVIN: May I call you the Fabulous Fab?

MR. TOURRE: I wish you wouldn't.

SEN. LEVIN: Fabulous Fab. Your now infamous e-mails to your girlfriend, in which you wrote about betting against CDOs and predicted the fall of the housing market and yet continued to sell complex financial instruments to unsuspecting clients, to widows and orphans as you said in your e-mails.

MR. TOURRE: Is there a question in your future, senator?

SEN. LEVIN: My question is this. What's it like to have a French girlfriend?

MR. TOURRE: It's not terrible.

SEN. LEVIN: Looking back, do you have any regrets?

MR. TOURRE: I regret not betting against the BP oil spill in the gulf. There was money to be made there.

SEN. LEVIN: I want to squeeze your little French face until it hurts.

MR. TOURRE: And I want to show you my checking account balance.

SEN. LEVIN: I cede the floor to my colleague from Nevada, Sen. John Ensign, who will question Goldman Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein.

SEN. ENSIGN: I'd like to start out by asking an obnoxious question that I'm confident will make it on the news tonight. And that is, "How do you sleep at night?"

MR. BLANKFEIN: And I'd like to start out by singing Elmo's song. "This is the song, la-la-la-la, Elmo's song. La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la, Elmo's song." Thank you.

SEN. ENSIGN: Thank you, Mr. Baldfiend.

MR. BLANKFEIN: It's Blankfein.

SEN. ENSIGN: I'm sorry. What did I say?

MR. BLANKFEIN: You said Baldfiend.

SEN. ENSIGN: Are you sure I said Baldfiend?

MR. BLANKFEIN: I am. And I believe you're saying it on purpose. But I've heard it all. You can't hurt me.

SEN. ENSIGN: Do you know what a moral compass is, Mr. Blankfein?

MR. BLANKFEIN: I think it's something you can't find in Nevada.

SEN. ENSIGN: A recent poll showed your firm with worse negative ratings than Genghis Khan, Stalin and Idi Amin, though just ahead of Pol Pot. What do you say to that?

MR. BLANKFEIN: I think it's great we're ahead of Pol Pot, who was, to my mind, misunderstood and, I have read, a marvelous table tennis player.

SEN. ENSIGN: It's like we're speaking a different language. Is money really worth that much to you?

MR. BLANKFEIN: Wait. That's a joke, right?

SEN. ENSIGN: If your house were burning, what one possession would you reach for?

MR. BLANKFEIN: My wallet.

SEN. ENSIGN: What about your wife or your children?

MR. BLANKFEIN: I don't consider them possessions, senator, I consider them tax write-offs.

SEN. ENSIGN: Is there a lot of math in a job like yours?

MR. BLANKFEIN: Some. Not much. Why?

SEN. ENSIGN: I hate math.


SEN ENSIGN: Does anyone really know what a collateralized debt obligation is?

MR. BLANKFEIN: No. It's just a made-up thing to rob people.

SEN. ENSIGN: Incredible. Let me say this. Sometimes I'm afraid for no reason and want to cry.

MR. BLANKFEIN: I totally know that feeling. I feel that all the time.

SEN. ENSIGN: Do you think that if we met under different circumstances that we might have been close? Gone camping? Maybe a movie or a dance class?

MR. BLANKFEIN: It's something I can very easily picture, senator.

John Kenney is a writer in New York.

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