Senate Grilling Puts Goldman Execs on the Defense

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WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have not been able to agree yet on a financial overhaul plan. But they have agreed to grill executives from one of Wall Street's biggest firms.

A Senate panel is alleging mega bank Goldman Sachs made billions by selling bad investments to unsuspecting clients, and then betting they would fail.

A Bipartisan Grilling

For nearly 11 hours Tuesday on Capitol Hill angry senators grilled Goldman executives over the matter.

"You are going against the very security you are selling and you're not troubled? And you want people to trust you?" Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., challenged Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein. "I wouldn't trust you."

But Blankfein said his clients came looking for risk and "that's what they got."

"What we and other banks, rating agencies and regulators failed to do was sound the alarm that there was too much lending and too much leverage in the system," he said.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., compared the company's behavior to the Wild, Wild, West operating with less oversight than a Las Vegas pit boss.

"What you worried about most was a bad article in the Wall Street Journal, not a regulator," she said.

"There's no doubt their behavior was unethical," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., concurred.

Goldman Exec: No Regrets

Despite a bipartisan verbal pounding by senators and protestors dressed in prison stripes, not one executive admitted regret or wrongdoing.

"Regret means there was something you feel like you did wrong. I don't have that," former Goldman Sachs executive Dan Sparks said.

"I do not think that we did anything wrong," Goldman executive Michael Swenson said.

The company is facing civil fraud charges launched by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Obama Tours Main Street

While senators take Wall Street to task, President Obama is touring Main Streets in the Midwest to try and convince Americans his government is cleaning up the nation's financial mess.

"Our markets are climbing," the president said. "Our businesses are beginning to create jobs again."

But the president has not yet convinced one Republican senator to vote for the Democrats' financial reform bill.

Now Republican lawmakers have introduced their own plan. It prohibits the use of taxpayer funds to bail out financial firms, regulates complex investments called derivatives, and restricts financial aid to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The time for bipartisan talks is ticking, though.

Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio said he'll let the Democratic bill advance if bipartisan talks failed to produce fruit soon.

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.