Fabrice Tourre is an American hero and a scapegoat of regulatory abusers.
Five years ago, the entire US economy went pretty much straight to hell. Gaslit by a housing bubble that finally burst after years of speculation and bloat. When the dust finally settled, there was more than enough blame to go around. Mortgage lenders had given mortgages to people with no business – or any steady source of income of any kind, really – taking out mortgages. Backers, like Goldman Sachs, had bet against the same investments it had been selling. It was pretty much a shit show all around.
For the company’s part in the housing fiasco, Goldman Sachs legal reps settled out of court, agreeing to pay penalties totaling $550 million dollars, a record fine, but a paltry sum compared to the $1 billion dollars that investors are said to have lost in the deal. For that price, the banking giant got to walk away from the entire mess with no admission of guilt. More importantly, the company was spared untold amounts of negative publicity and a costly, lengthy legal battle. Many banks and investment groups faced with similar circumstances have taken the same path, agreeing to pay penalties in order to avoid litigation or culpability.
Five years after the bubble burst, no single banker on Wall Street has gone to jail for any crimes related to the housing crisis, but the American public is ready for its pound of flesh.
Enter young millionaire turned unwitting sacrificial lamb, Fabrice “Fab” Tourre. At just 28 years old, he became one of the youngest Vice Presidents in the 144 year history of Goldman Sachs. A brash, young upstart, Tourre cuts a dashing figure with brown hair, brown eyes and a tone, lean physique. Raised in a suburb of Paris, Tourre earned a degree in mathematics from the École Centrale in Paris. He later earned his Master’s from Stanford and at 34 is now a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago. In short, he is young, accomplished, cultured, smart and handsome. He makes for as sympathetic a public figure as Daddy Warbucks or the Monopoly Man.
Faced with a similar decision as Goldman Sachs, Tourre has literally decided to have his day in court. In an effort to clear his reputation, Tourre is fighting the charges levied at him in a civil suit filed by the SEC, rather than paying a fine, slinking off into obscurity, escaping the wrath of the nation’s racked attention span.
To be sure, it is a brave act, but one that may be entirely conceived in stupidity and lacking in self awareness. For his part, Tourre may be greatly underestimating a seething resentment toward Wall Street that has not waned in the ensuing five years since the mortgage meltdown.
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More importantly, he may be underestimating the sheer will of the SEC lawyers prosecuting the case, who are increasingly aware of mounting pressures from inside Washington and in the public eye to show accountability for the crimes of five years ago. A recent Reuters article quoted a lawyer for the US Securities and Exchange Committee as having said that Tourre’s trial is all about, “Wall Street greed.”
In reality, the trial is only about one man, a low level Morgan Stanley employee, who while not guiltless,should bear only a portion of responsibility for what happened.
Still, Tourre is likely to be seen by the SEC as the slow moving target in a herd of the three-piece suited wildebeests. Although his defense team is paid for by Goldman Sachs, Tourre is no longer a Goldman employee and will likely not be defended with the same resources or vigor reserved for C-suite executives.
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While, the trial is ongoing and Tourre is expected to take the stand in the near future, the SEC will likely try to convince the American public they have caught a lion, instead of a housecat.