Our friends at The Wall Street Journal did the heavy lifting, forcing the SEC to unredact the testimony of a dozen unfortunate souls questioned by the SEC, so it would be churlish not to enjoy all of the awkwardness, bad jokes, requests for corporal punishment and, of course, invocations of Fifth Amendment rights available therein.

The uncensored transcripts show that Mr. Cassano, who was a target of parallel criminal and SEC investigations, used his Fifth Amendment right about every 38 seconds on average during his interview Sept. 11, 2009.

Mr. Cassano, the former head of the AIG unit whose dire financial straits led the insurer to seek a bailout, declined to answer some simple queries, such as confirming the signature above his name on a letter, the transcript shows.

The gravity of the situation led to awkward, sometimes comical, exchanges. A manager who worked for Goldman vetting loans in Florida struggled to obey instructions not to interrupt the SEC questioner, according to the transcript of her June 2011 interview.

Q: [Your lawyer] just wants to let me finish [asking] the questions.
A: Oh, I’m sorry.
Q: It’s okay.
A: Here, just slap me….

Another Goldman banker told SEC officials he didn’t know what he meant by an email he sent in 2006 that said underwriters and issuers would “put $ in our pockets” because “we are us….”

Saying that some at the insurer had chosen “not to listen” to his unit’s warnings about increasing credit risks, he added in the email: “Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns is my assessment of that.”

Q: You use…like a historical analogy here
A: A little poetic license
Q: Yeah, absolutely. Who’s Nero?
A: The former Roman emperor
Q: Well, who’s Nero in this analogy?
[Laughter]

Under SEC Questioning, Jokes and Jitters [WSJ]

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