KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — Goldman Sachs’ complicity in allegedly defrauding 1MDB appears to reach the very top of the US investment bank, with chairman Lloyd Blankfein now identified as the previously unnamed official who attended negotiations with the Malaysian firm.
According to Bloomberg, people familiar with the investigation into Goldman said Blankfein was personally involved in driving the investment bank’s pursuit of the Malaysian state investment firm’s patronage.
The US previously referenced an unnamed Goldman executive in its criminal indictments against former bankers Tim Leissner and Roger Ng, to which Leissner has pleaded guilty.
The indictments indicated that the executive — now independently identified as Blankfein — had sat in on meetings with Leissner and fugitive financier Low Taek Jho, the suspected mastermind in the 1MDB corruption scandal.
Blankfein stepped down as the chief executive of Goldman earlier this year; he remains the bank’s chairman at least until the end of the year.
According to US prosecutors, the investment bank generated an “above average” US$600 million in fees for its work with 1MDB, which included three bond offerings in 2012 and 2013 that raised US$6.5 billion. Leissner, Ng and others received large bonuses in connection with that revenue.
Leissner has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and agreed to forfeit US$43.7 million (RM181.9 million).
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng previously said Goldman was morally obligated to return the sum to Malaysia, while Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim — possibly Malaysia’s next prime minister — told Bloomberg TV that it would be “inexcusable” if the bank was complicit in the scandal.
Goldman chief executive officer David Solomon told an interview with Bloomberg TV in Singapore this week that it was “distressing” to find two of its former executives went around the bank’s policies and broke the law in their dealings with 1MDB.
Solomon made no mention of Blankfein’s role in the matter.
Blankfein is among the top financial elites in the US and had been tapped to be the country’s 74th secretary of the Treasury.
Time magazine also named him twice on its “most influential” list, while the Financial Times chose Blankfein as its “Person of the Year” in 2009.
He became the chief executive and chairman of Goldman in 2006.