Senate Dem: Goldman's behavior still 'immoral' despite absent charges

On Thursday evening, the Justice Department announced that after over a year of investigation, it had no "viable basis" to bring criminal charges against Goldman or its employees "based on the law and evidence as they exist at this time."

The department left the door open for future charges if more evidence emerged, but said it could not met the burden of proof required to bring a criminal case at this time.

In his comment, Levin stopped short of directly criticizing the administration for opting not to pursue charges against the Wall Street giant, saying a lack of charges could have come from "weak laws or weak enforcement."

Instead, he opted for a forward perspective, taking the opportunity to push for a robust implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

"Yesterday’s announcement makes it even more important that regulators implement Dodd-Frank with rules that do not water down it down, and that they enforce those rules with vigor," he said. "The integrity of our financial markets and the strength of our economy demand that we make sure that actions such as Goldman Sachs’ and other recently discovered misdeeds by financial institutions are ended."

Proponents of tough Wall Street regulation were more direct in their criticism. The Wall Street reform group Better Markets said the decision to not pursue charges was "an abdication of responsibility and a disservice to the American people."

“The ongoing failure to enforce the law against the rich, powerful and well-connected of Wall Street only rewards and incentivizes more crime, which is why there are and will continue to be more scandals,” said Dennis Kelleher, the group's president and CEO. “Much worse, however, is that this ongoing double standard erodes the belief in the American justice and political systems, which threaten the very foundation of our democracy.” 

Levin referred the findings of the report released in April 2011 to the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution. The findings of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations depicted Goldman as misleading investors by marketing a risky security, telling investors the bank had "aligned incentives" with it, and then making a substantial bet against it.

The report, intended to dissect the causes of the financial crisis, cast blame toward multiple entities, including other banks, credit rating agencies and financial regulators. But Goldman received particular scorn from Levin for its actions, which he called "disgraceful" at the time. When the report was released, Levin stopped short of saying it provided proof of criminal behavior, saying he was referring the matter to the appropriate authorities.

A spokesman for Goldman told Reuters after the Justice Department's announcement that the bank was "pleased that this matter is behind us."