Opinion: Who is ‘the fabulous Fab,’ and why is Congress making him the poster child for greed at Goldman Sachs?
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Like all of these showdowns between the money-is-God titans of Wall Street and the holier-than-thou lords of Congress, Tuesday’s investigation of Goldman Sachs will likely produce more noise than information. Already, those controversy-stoking guardians of the media are focusing on 55-year-old Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein, the up-from-Brooklyn Goldman Sachs executive whose first job was selling peanuts and popcorn at Yankee Stadium and whose father was a mail sorter at the local post office. In a predictable script, Blankfein is expected to tell a special committee of Congress that his company did nothing wrong and did not, as the Security and Exchange Commission alleges, bet against the mortgage market. Then members of Congress are expected to grill him, insisting that Goldman Sachs was in fact cheering when Americans lost their homes.
But one of the first witnesses to testify is a relatively junior figure, Fabrice Tourre, an until-now-unknown 31-year-old Frenchman who called himself ‘the fabulous Fab.’
His prepared remarks read like the speech of any aggrieved Frenchman from Napoleon on. ‘I have been the target of unfounded attacks on my character and motives,’ he says. ‘I deny -- categorically -- the SEC’s allegation.’
Who is this guy? And why is a Frenchman at the center of a classic American scandal?
For starters, he attended one of France’s best engineering schools, the École Centrale Paris, getting a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He was a natural for Wall Street, where demand for executives with quantitative skills, especially in areas like structured finance, was growing even as test scores for U.S. kids were falling.
But the problem (for him) is that he is also, how do you say in French? ... flamboyant. On a career-building website called Viadeo, Tourre described himself as a “trader/structurer of exotic derivatives.” And in an e-mail to a friend on Jan. 23, 2007, he wrote, “More and more leverage in the system, The whole building is about to collapse anytime now … Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab[rice Tourre] … standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstrosities!!!”
Hubris is one thing Congress understands well, having had some experience in the area. Even as President Obama pushes for financial regulatory reform and Democrats and Republicans haggle over the details, Fabrice and Blankfein provide convenient foils for voter anger.
After all, it’s an election year.
-- Johanna Neuman