Economic chief faces tough questions

February 26, 2019

HARTFORD — David A. Lehman, a former Goldman Sachs banker who presided over controversial financial instruments there as the nation’s economy was melting down in 2008, doesn’t want any salary in his new role as commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

But the Greenwich millionaire paid a price on Tuesday as lawmakers dredged up his banking past, while interviewing him for the position he has held for about a week.

Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney and state Rep. Mike D’Agostino, D-Hamden, led tough questioning about the giant New York bank’s role in the Great Recession, when the firm sold risky investments, then bet against the housing industry.

“Goldman was profiting in a bet against the American economy,” D’Agostino said, hammering home points on risky, mortgage-backed investments that Goldman was selling at the time it was trying to decrease its exposure, when Lehman was co-chairman of the department.

“I’ve never had a crystal ball,” said Lehman, who said he called Gov. Ned Lamont after his election win, introduced himself and said he was interested in helping the state’s economic rebound. “I did not know at the time that those securities would be worthless. There should have been enhanced transparency and disclosure. I didn’t view what we were doing at the time was betting against the housing market. I am not here to defend Goldman.”

His future in the job, after a crucial committee vote, will depend on support vote in the state Senate next month.

kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT