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The unusual announcement not to prosecute criminally came in an unsigned statement attributed to the department.
Few expected the bank to face criminal charges, but in April 2011, U.S. Senator Carl Levin asked for a criminal investigation after the subcommittee he leads spent years looking into Goldman.
Levin's subcommittee held televised hearings as part of its inquiry, which centered on a subprime mortgage product known as Abacus. He said Goldman misled Congress and investors.
Goldman employee Fabrice Tourre still faces a civil complaint from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He has denied any wrongdoing and was the only person accused.
Goldman itself settled with the SEC for $550 million in July 2010 without admitting wrongdoing.
The statement from the Justice Department said that officials there "have determined that, based on the law and evidence as they exist at this time, there is not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution with respect to Goldman Sachs or its employees in regard to the allegations set forth in the report" from Levin's subcommittee.
Justice Department investigators and prosecutors worked on their inquiry for "more than a year," the statement said.
Those working on the inquiry included officials in the department's Criminal Division and in the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, the statement said.
They "ultimately concluded that 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 statement continued.
"If any additional or new evidence emerges, today's assessment does not prevent the department from reviewing such evidence and making a different determination, if warranted," the statement said.