If you thought I would go the full week without a proper homage to Stan Lee, think again, as today I profile my favorite Marvel characters, the Fantastic Four. Over the next two blog posts I will paying tribute to Lee’s creation. Today, I will look at how the Fantastic Four became ‘fantastic’. Tomorrow, I will take up each character. Which of the Fantastic Four is your favorite character? Leave a note in the message tab and let’s find out. So a big thank you to Stan Lee for his creation of the Fantastic Four, all of whom have given me many years of enjoyment in print, TV and film.
The Fantastic Four gained superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific mission to outer space. In this trip, the ship carrying the four was bombarded with cosmic rays. According the Comic Vine, “When the rocket ship eventually crash-landed back on Earth the crew saw Sue briefly disappear when as turned invisible. This caused Ben to get angry with and aggressive towards Reed which triggered a radical physical transformation causing Ben to suddenly change into a monstrous “thing.” Ben tried to attack Reed, but Reed transformed into Mr. Fantastic, using his lengthy arms to wrap them around Ben. Johnny then suddenly changed into the Human Torch. Reed gathered the group together and convinced them that they must use their powers to help mankind. Thus the Fantastic Four was formed, though Ben was somewhat reluctant. By the way, it was Susan Storm who first called Ben “a Thing” and so when it came time for each member of the team to choose names, Ben decided to go with the name that Susan had already given him. This must have been Ben’s way of getting back a little at Reed and Sue, for their being at least partially responsible for his tragic transformation.”
The Fantastic Four introduce four questions that Goldman Sachs will have to answer around its role in the 1MDB scandal. While the company has tried to separate itself from its former partner Tim Leissner and former Managing Directors Roger Ng and Andrea Vella; given Leissner’s remarks about company culture and the company’s expectations at his guilty plea hearing this past summer. David Crow, writing in a Financial Times (FT) article, entitled “Key questions for Goldman Sachs about Malaysian scandal”, said that Goldman Sachs was scheduled to meet with the Department of Justice (DOJ) this week. Crow believes there are four key areas of inquiry the DOJ will pose to Goldman.
- Was this the work of a rogue banker?
Was Leissner really a rogue employee or was the culture of Goldman Sachs such that it was expected that a partner could misrepresent to the compliance function? In a court hearing, “Leissner said concealing facts from internal compliance officials was “very much in line” with the culture at the bank”, stating, ““I conspired with other employees and agents of Goldman Sachs very much in line of its culture of Goldman Sachs to conceal facts from certain compliance and legal employees of Goldman Sachs,” he said.”
- Has Goldman co-operated fully with prosecutors?
Goldman has tried to claim, “that much of the information in the complaint against Mr Leissner was provided by the bank.” However the underlying information on the 1MDB scandal has been known for years. It has consistently been reported on in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and FT. According to Dennis Lormel, a former chief of the FBI’s Financial Crimes Program, “prosecutors will ask when Goldman first suspected that Mr Leissner had acted illegally, and how quick it was to inform the relevant authorities.” Further, ““The fact the bank is co-operating is in their best interests, but the question becomes ‘did Goldman self-report when they became aware of any problems’. If they did so expeditiously, they will be less culpable,” he said.”
- Who knew?
It is clear that Leissner attempted “to conceal the importance of Jho Low, a Malaysian financier at the heart of the 1MDB scandal who acted as a middleman to grease the wheels on deals with Goldman.” Unfortunately it has now come out that “Lloyd Blankfein, former chief executive and current chairman, attended a meeting with Mr Low on two occasions.” John Byrne, a former head of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, noted, “Even if the bank can show Mr Leissner acted entirely alone, prosecutors could argue that Goldman had “collective knowledge” of the illegality.” He further stated, “If the business people knew something and the compliance did not, you can combine those to get a collective knowledge theory of liability.”
- What has Goldman done to fix the problems?
Prosecutors will expect Goldman to show that it has investigated Leissner’s other deals and a more wide-ranging investigation of deals across the “region to ascertain whether 1MDB was an isolated instance, or if it was typical of his way of doing business. And they will ask how he managed to circumvent the bank’s oft-touted compliance operation. Elise Bean, a former congressional investigator, said she would ask questions such “Are these the only bribes he paid?” “Is this the only type of deal like this? How was he able to bypass compliance and legal personnel? And what has Goldman done to tighten its procedures?”
Just as the Fantastic Four were pummeled by cosmic rays that led to their transformation, Goldman Sachs continues to be pummeled literally across the globe. Reuters reported that “Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said bankers at Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) “cheated” the country in dealings with state fund 1MDB and that U.S. authorities have promised to help return the fees the Wall Street bank earned from the fund.” Bloomberg reported that the firm’s share price had dropped to its lowest level since 2011. It cited Gerard Cassidy, from RBC Capital Markets, who said ““It’s not so much the dollar amount. It’s more that we don’t know all of the facts yet, we don’t know all of the important points to the story at this time. It’s the fear of the unknown.””
Tomorrow I will look at the individual members of the Fantastic Four and consider four questions from the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2018