Goldman Sachs was let off the hook yesterday as the US Department of Justice dropped plans to bring criminal charges over claims the bank was betting against the same toxic subprime mortgage securities it sold to clients.
In April last year senator Carl Levin demanded a criminal investigation after his sub-committee spent more than a year looking into Goldman.
Chief executive Lloyd Blankfein faced a embarrassing grilling for hours from Mr Levin over whether it was morally correct for the firm to sell its clients products described internally as "crap".
The DoJ yesterday dropped plans to prosecute, saying: "the burden of proof to bring a criminal case could not be met based on the law and facts as they exist at this time".
The Securities and Exchange Commission also dropped a separate probe into the firm's role in selling a different $1.3bn (£830m) subprime mortgage-related deal arranged in 2006.
However, the regulator is still pursuing a civil complaint against Goldman vice-president Fabrice Tourre over its Abacus deal, which the bank settled for $550 million in 2010. Tourre was based in London while marketing the controversial investment, which saw Goldman sell loans selected by a hedge fund client it knew was betting against them.
The failure to prosecute Goldman triggered frustration in some quarters. Neil Barofsky, a former watchdog for the US government's 2008 bailout of the banks, said no individual or institution had been held accountable for the financial crisis. "Without such accountability, the unending parade of megabanks scandals will inevitably continue," he said.