Yes, as a high-level executive for Goldman Sachs for more than a decade, Greg Smith was part of the toxic culture he decried in the resignation letter printed in Wednesday’s New York Times and re-posted around the world. Thus, he was part of the problem, and no doubt he profited from it along the way.
That said, Smith’s parting shot made for more than just an exciting last day on the job in Goldman’s London office. The Stanford-trained trader also made it harder for his former employer to play the contrite megafirm in this post-apocalyptic recessionary era—not like that’s what was likely to happen, as Smith pointed out in his op-ed manifesto.
Greg Smith in The New York Times:
It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire Squids? No humility? I mean, come on.
This kind of candor might make it hard for Smith to get traction on Wall Street in the future, but that might be kind of the point. Or beside the point. But at any rate, his ex-boss, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, was quick on the trigger, issuing a (conveniently leaked) memo to company insiders expressing his dismay over the—wait for it—“disgruntled” ex-employee’s decision to step up to the mass-media megaphone with his complaints and helpfully reminding them of an internal “People Survey” showing how very high percentages of current Goldman employees felt they were actually doing a good and righteous job.
Lloyd Blankfein’s memo in The Telegraph:
While I expect you find the words you read today foreign from your own day-to-day experiences, we wanted to remind you what we, as a firm – individually and collectively – think about Goldman Sachs and our client-driven culture.
First, 85pc of the firm responded to our recent People Survey, which provides the most detailed and comprehensive review to determine how our people feel about Goldman Sachs and the work they do.
And, what do our people think about how we interact with our clients? Across the firm at all levels, 89pc of you said that that the firm provides exceptional service to them. For the group of nearly 12,000 vice-presidents, of which the author of today’s commentary was, that number was similarly high.
Aside from the most absurd aspect of this justification—that Blankfein is actually citing his underlings’ opinions from a poll they were asked to take to evaluate their own job performance and client relationships—we might also note the thinly veiled directive issued in the first sentence of this excerpt: “While I expect you find the words you read today foreign from your own day-to-day experiences ... ” [emphasis added]. And although Bloomberg’s editors were quick to blast Smith for seeming shocked at the bald force of Goldman’s profit drive, others came to his defense, including business columnists, Truthdig’s own Robert Scheer and former AIG Chairman Maurice “Hank” Greenberg.
We’ll let this excerpt from Scheer’s column, posted as Smith’s last day on the job came to a close on the PST side of the world, speak to our choice to give Smith the nod for Truthdigger of the Week. As for the rest of the 12 years Smith spent at Goldman, that’s for his own conscience to sort out; we make this tribute for moves made and stands taken within the confines of a week, hence the name. (Those of you who disagree might also enjoy this particular pop-cultural spoof on Smith’s sudden, mediated burst of indignation.) But as Scheer suggests, coming to one’s senses late is better than buying in for life, taking multiple trips through “the platinum revolving door” with impunity—and seemingly without much regard for the rest of humanity.
Robert Scheer in Truthdig:
Back in the Clinton era, it fell to the president’s last press secretary, Jake Siewert, to justify the freeing of Wall Street investment houses to do their worst, and in one of those delicious ironies Siewert was appointed as a managing director and the global head of corporate communications for Goldman Sachs the day before the devastating Smith exposé broke.
[...] Because Siewert is obviously without a moral compass, he can, as have so many in the elite from both parties, move easily without any hesitation through the platinum revolving door between Washington and Wall Street, becoming filthy rich in the process while betraying the public trust. Hail Greg Smith, and thank The New York Times, for his cri de coeur, a rare example that decency is not always for sale.