Today could be my first day at Goldman Sachs.
Look, Goldman, I hear that this Greg Smith guy is resigning, in a letter that has attracted all kinds of media attention, because he can no longer stand the culture there. “Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts,” he wrote, “and not enough about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.”
Well, I have no problem with the culture, as he portrays it. Goldman Sachs does wrong by its clients in order to make money? This sounds fine to me. I should mention up-front that I recently murdered an old lady with an ax and took her money, but in my defense, it was a lot of money. And from most of his account it sounds like this will not be a problem for you.
“The interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money,” Smith complained.
What else did he expect?
Goldman Sachs, as people have repeatedly observed, sounds like something Scrooge McDuck stores his money in. They have “sacks” (spelled with an h, the more expensive k) and “gold” in the name. So I share none of Mr. Smith’s delusions that this is a place you work to Be A Pillar Of The Global Economy or Act Responsibly With The Money Of Others. I saw “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.” Of course money never sleeps. It is an inanimate object, or possibly a concept, but even if it weren’t, the amount of cocaine it purchases would probably keep it up for a long time.
Look, I feel about Incalculably Vast Amounts of Money the way I feel about heroin. I’ve never had it, but I bet I’d enjoy it if you offered it to me, and it would take my life in strange directions. And the things you have if you are wealthy look fun, like Hedges and Hedge Funds and Infinity Pools and A Say In Politics and Companions Who Look Like They Have Recently Undergone Extensive Renovations.
My point is, I have no illusions about helping people. If I had, I would have Taught For America.
“The firm,” Smith complained, “has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.”
I can. It stands for “Making Money In Ways That I Do Not Entirely Understand And That Might Not Be Legal.” I am all for that. And so are a massive number of recent graduates from elite institutions — 35.9 percent of Princeton’s 2010 class, to take one example.
“Teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility. . . The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years,” Smith lamented. Frankly, I am glad to get rid of any culture involving secret sauce. Sounds suspect.
I will be the first to admit that I am not as great as Smith. Smith “was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on our recruiting video” — so probably he looks less like a startled weasel than I do, on camera — and “Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia. . . . My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts.”
There are no shortcuts in table tennis.
But look, if this man (who appears to walk on water, by his own account) is complaining that the culture of humility is gone, it must really be bad.
Goldman, I have long dreamed of quitting the hurly-burly of my present trade to lead a quiet life in tune with money. Preferably other people’s money. I think we’d be a perfect fit.
Smith also says that firm leaders call their clients “muppets” and try to gouge them. I love insulting people and taking their money. I thought that my only career option was Schoolyard Bully, and I am delighted that this is not the case.
I do have some questions. Apparently, one of the three ways to make money is to “Find yourself sitting in a seat where your job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.” What is this product? It sounds like it could be hard to get out of linens.
And everything sounds so perfect — you can insult people, take their money, casually wreck large swaths of the economy and you don’t even have to be humble about it — that I worry: surely there’s a catch.
“Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence,” Smith wrote.
Ah. Well. That’s the one trouble.
But don’t worry. There’s plenty more where I came from.
From Right Turn’s Jennifer Rubin: Greg Smith, stop whining about your millions.
From On Leadership’s Jena McGregor: Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith and the fantasy job exit.