Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s mortgagetrader
s, under the spotlight because of the U.S. government's fraud lawsuit against the securities firm, made markets in more than just bonds during the real-estate bubble.
美国政府的欺诈指控而曝露在聚光灯下的高盛集团(Goldman Sachs Group Inc.)抵押贷款交易员们在美国房地产泡沫时期交易的不仅仅是债券。
They also cast bets on a White Castle hamburger-eating contest
In December 2007, after the firm distributed multimillion-dollar bonus checks in part thanks to bets on a mortgage
meltdown, about 10 Goldman mortgagetrader
s, surrounded by dozens of cheering colleagues, wolfed down the burgers, according to attendees. Bystanders wagered cash on how many burgers the trader
s could eat.
event resembled a scene out of 'Liar's Poker,' a book depicting bawdy antics of bond trader
s at Salomon Brothers in the 1980s. In fact, the 2007 contest
was held just a few floors away from where the Salomon trader
s worked when that firm leased space in the same Manhattan building.
这项一年一度的活动效仿的是《说谎者的扑克牌》(Liar's Poker)中的一幕。这本书描写了上世纪80年代所罗门兄弟公司(Salomon Brothers)债券交易员们的粗俗言行。实际上，2007年这次比赛的举办地距离所罗门交易员们曾经工作过的地方只隔几层楼，当时所罗门曾在同一座曼哈顿大厦里租下办公地。
It was a lower-stakes version
of what went on every day in the group: aggressive
, take-no-prisoners trading. Mortgage-backed bonds, including complex
derivatives that tracked pools of risky loans, were traded for big money in Goldman's 400-person mortgage
In 2007, the group wagered that mortgage
prices would plunge
, creating a nearly $4 billion
windfall, according to people familiar with the matter at the time. Goldman now says losses in other areas left the company with less than $500 million in net revenue
Still, the trader
s hoped their big returns would lead eventually
to a ticket to 'Hitters Row,' the 50th-floor enclave in Goldman's One New York Plaza building where the firm's top securities-business executives worked.
尽管如此，抵押贷款交易员们仍然希望他们能凭借取得的高收益最终跻身"击球手行列"──也就是高盛位于纽约广场一号(One New York Plaza)大楼50层的办公区。那里是公司证券业务高层管理人士工作的地方。
Recently, the group's profile
has risen. The financial
world is riveted on the Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit filed earlier this month against Goldman, which is accused with one of its trader
s in the mortgage
group of creating a product secretly
designed to fail for the benefit of a favored hedge-fund client.
最近，高盛抵押贷款团队的名气大幅上升。美国证券交易委员会(Securities and Exchange Commission，简称SEC)本月早些时候对高盛的起诉成为金融界的焦点。SEC指控高盛抵押贷款团队的一名交易员偏向一名对冲基金客户，设计出一个明知将使投资者遭受亏损的产品。
Goldman has repeatedly
denied any wrongdoing, but the unit will be a focus of testimony
this week before the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is examining the causes of the financial
高盛多次否认自己有不当行为，不过，该公司旗下的抵押贷款部门在本周参议院常设调查小组委员会(Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations)的听证会上将成为焦点所在。该委员会正在调查金融危机的起因。
s in Goldman's mortgage
unit were told to take a cue from Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback regarded as methodical and cool under pressure
, say people who were in the unit. For a group filled with Red Sox and Patriots fans -- and led by a Texas A&M University graduate who traveled
back to his alma mater for football games -- the analogy
struck a chord.
曾在高盛抵押贷款部门工作过的人士表示，年轻的交易员们被告知要向新英格兰爱国者美式橄榄球队(New England Patriots)枢纽前卫•布兰迪(Tom Brady)学习，因为布兰迪在压力下也能做到有条不紊、沉着冷静。对于满是红袜棒球队(Red Sox)和爱国者队球迷的高盛抵押贷款部门来说──该部门的领导是一名德克萨斯A&M大学(Texas A&M University)毕业生，他曾为了观看橄榄球比赛而不辞辛苦地返回母校──这样的类比引起了他们的共鸣。
But there was little time for watching sports during chaotic 2007, when mortgage
bonds melted down and paved the way for 2008's full-blown financial
panic. Traders worked punishing hours in a drab office space with long rows of computer
terminals and phones.
Daniel Sparks, the Houston-born Goldman lifer who ran the mortgage
department, usually arrived by 7:30 a.m. Michael Swenson and David Lehman, co-heads of the structured-products group, arrived shortly
afterward, say people who were there at the time.
当时在该部门工作的人士说，抵押贷款部门负责人丹尼尔•斯帕克斯(Daniel Sparks)通常在早上7:30之前就来到办公室。斯帕克斯生在休斯敦，一直为高盛效力。结构性产品团队的共同负责人迈克尔•史文森(Michael Swenson)和大卫•莱曼(David Lehman)稍后也会到公司。
Messrs. Sparks, Swenson and Lehman declined to comment
for this article.
Late nights were frequent
. 'I'm still stuck at work at 10PM, but it's been six years since I've been functioning on this @!$GBP @!$@$GBP schedule
, so who cares,' wrote trader
Fabrice Tourre in a Jan. 31, 2007 email to a friend. 'I feel like I'm losing my mind and I'm only 28!!' wrote Mr. Tourre, who is a defendant
in the SEC's lawsuit.
Mr. Tourre and his lawyers have declined to comment
and are fighting the regulatory charges.
Short and bespectacled, the French-born Mr. Tourre, who worked with hedge funds and banks in trading complex
bond products, didn't especially stand out, say people who were there at the time. Like other trader
s, he wore khaki or dark pants and button-down shirts, these people say. His background
, which included a master's degree in engineering
from Stanford University, was typical
of the quantitative leanings of many co-workers.
As the market for risky subprime home loans deteriorated during 2007, some trader
s were rattled. Many were shocked on April 2, when subprime lender New Century Financial Corp. filed for bankruptcy
随着高风险的次级住宅贷款市场在2007年不断恶化，一些交易员变得紧张不安。许多人在4月2日大吃一惊，当时次级抵押贷款机构New Century Financial Corp.申请破产。
'Is this the big one?' trader
s asked, say people who were there at the time, as they watched Mr. Sparks confer with Mr. Swenson, known as 'Swenny,' at his computer
In the months that followed, as more lenders filed for bankruptcy
and hedge funds appeared troubled, the notion of 'the big one' -- a major event that would crack the market -- became fodder
for dark humor, say these people.
If a struggling asset manager
posted a low-quality bond as collateral for quick cash, the Goldman trader
s would dub it a 'hairy security,' say these people. Mr. Sparks, they say, was relieved to have sold many of his group's riskiest holdings during the spring, albeit
at a loss.
Despite the annual
White Castle frenzy
, in which the proceeds were given to charity
, many of the trader
s were health nuts. Many noshed on egg whites, fruit, and turkey
sandwiches, ordered up by the group's assistants or taken from the pantry
down the hall.
Joshua Birnbaum, a Goldman trader
from Oakland, Calif., played a major role in the short, or bearish, bet that led to nearly $4 billion
in gross profits for Goldman, these people say. In February, Mr. Birnbaum, then 35 years old, briefly
lost his cool and slammed down a phone receiver
, say these people, when a more senior
insisted on unwinding some of his trades to cut risk.