Levin is chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that held the congress hearing on Capitol Hill, where the top officials of Goldman Sachs are facing allegations of harming the US economy.

'Dirty profits'

"Surely there is no law, ethical guideline or moral injunction against profit," Levin said.

"But Goldman Sachs didn't just make money. It profited by taking advantage of its clients' reasonable expectation that it would not sell products that it did not want to succeed."

Al Jazeera's Kimberly Halkett, reporting from Washington, said that the hearings were a heated exchange between the executives and the politicians.

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  Goldman charged with fraud

Accusing Goldman of "trying to sell a shitty deal" to investors, Levin said that "as we speak, lobbyists fill the halls of Congress hoping to weaken or kill reforms that would end these abuses."

The politicians accused the Wall Street powerhouse of inflating the housing bubble earlier this decade and then profiting from its collapse in 2007.

Senior executives said that they were not prescient about the housing market, just diligent about limiting its risk.

Goldman helped to package toxic mortgages into bonds for fees from 2004 to 2007, and then repackaged those bonds into complex securities known as collateralized debt obligations, magnifying the risk from the mortgages, the subcommittee said.

"Goldman's actions demonstrate that it often saw its clients not as valuable customers but as objects for profits," Levin said.

"Its conduct brings into question the whole function of Wall Street."

In a packed hearing room, the Goldman officials looked impassively as politicians vilified them.

Officials deny charges

When Claire McCaskill, a US senator, accused Goldman officials of gambling with little oversight, three of the four witnesses briefly looked down into their laps.

Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman's CEO, will repeat to the hearing that the company's argument that it lost $1.2bn in the residential mortgage meltdown in 2007 and 2008 that touched off the financial crisis and a severe recession.

Blankfein said in prepared testimony that his bank "didn't have a massive short against the housing market and we certainly did not bet against our clients.

"We believe that we managed our risk as our shareholders and our regulators would expect".

The senate panel has obtained about two million emails and other Goldman documents during an 18-month investigation.

In one November 2007 message from Blankfein, he says "Of course we didn't dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts", referring to bets that the market will drop.

'Fabulous Fab'

Tourre famously wrote in a January 2007 email that he was "The fabulous Fab ...
standing in the middle of all these complex, ... exotic trades he created."

"We have a big short on ... ," Tourre wrote in a December 2006 email.

Daniel Sparks, a former head of Goldman's mortgages department, wrote to other executives in March 2007: "We are trying to close everything down, but stay on the short side."

The Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month filed a civil fraud case against Goldman.

It says Goldman concocted mortgage investments without telling buyers they had been put together with help from a hedge fund client, Paulson & Co, that was betting on the investments to fail.