Love or lies at Goldman Sachs?

I’m intrigued by the possibility that the civil trial of Fabrice Tourre, the former Goldman Sachs banker, may hinge on whether an email to his girlfriend was a love letter or an injudicious admission that he was misleading investors about the complex mortgage-related securities he was selling.

The lead attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission said at the opening of the civil hearing on Monday that it was the latter. Mr Tourre’s lawyer asked the jury to put the language of the communication down to “youthful arrogance” and said it was “an old-fashioned love letter” to his girlfriend, who was a Goldman co-worker.

Here’s the 2007 email in full, to which Mr Tourre attached a prescient column by our own Gillian Tett:

Darling you should take a look at this article… Very insightful…More and more leverage in the system, l’edifice entier risque de s’effondrer a tout moment…. Seul survivant potentiel, the fabulous Fab* (as Mitch would kindly call me, even though there is nothing fabulous abt me, just kindness, altruism and deep love for some gorgeous and super smart French girl in London), standing in the middle of all these complex, highly levered exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all the implications of these monstruosities [sic] !!! Anyway, not feeling too guilty about this, the real purpose of my job is to make capital markets more efficient and ultimately provide the US consumer will more efficient ways to leverage and finance himself, so there is a humble, noble and ethical reason for my job ; ) amazing how good I am in convincing myself !!!

Sweetheart, I am now going to try to get away from ABX and other ethical questions, and immediately plunge into Freakonomics… I feel blessed to be with you, to be able to learn and share special things with you, I love when you advise me on books I should be reading. I feel like we share a lot of things in common, a lot of values, topics we are interested in and intrigued by… I just love you !!!

Your chtit Fab

[* "The whole building could crumble at any moment... Only potential survivor, the Fabulous Fab..."]

In favour of it being a love letter:

1) It’s partly in French – but then French is the native language of both sender and recipient.

2) Within Goldman Sachs at least, forwarding a Gillian Tett article and referring to a modish business book – Freakonomics – may well have romantic overtones.

3) The final paragraph is genuinely affecting.

Against: the self-aggrandising tone of the rest of the email.

Even that great romantic and womaniser Lord Byron, who was “mad, bad and dangerous to know” and not afraid to big himself up (the poet, arguably the first self-promoting celebrity, made sure he was always portrayed as a man of action), lingers in his love letters on his lover’s qualities, rather than his own. His equivalent of sending an FT column was writing notes to Teresa Guiccioli in the back of her favourite books. But would he have banged on to her about how he was lording it over volatile capital markets? Never.

There is of course a third possibility, unmentioned on day one of the trial: that the email is neither entirely a billet doux nor wholly an admission of guilt, but a bit of both.