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Today, The New York Times printed an op-ed called "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs." I don't know how into investment banking you all are. It's pretty dry stuff, I think, but I also feel a bit forced to take an interest, what with investment banks nearly destroying the world and all. If we all lived in a comic book we'd have to take an interest in Lex Luthor too, even if he can drone on at times.
And investment bankers do drone on, especially this Greg Smith, who quit his job today. The culture of the firm changed, he says. I take serious issue with that. Goldman Sachs, like all large investment banks, has had conflicts of interest forever. It's by design. The bank both serves customers and trades its own book. Goldman's been dealing with these issues since the 1920s. If you want a quick history of Goldman's major conflicts, I outlined some of them in this review of William Cohan's book from last May.
Greg Smith worked at Goldman for 12 years, meaning that he started at the end of the dotcom crash, when it was pretty common knowledge that Wall Street analysts were not looking out for at least some of their clients. His whining missive in the Times just seems a little late to me. As in, "I made my money and now I'm getting out," late. By the way, the rumor being spread about Smith is that he wasn't that good at his job and never made more than $750,000 in a year. He's rich enough, if not by Goldman standards, certainly by the standards of most.
I've already gone on too long about the banker and his blind eye. What I really want to know is what The New York Times is thinking. Surely thousands of New Yorkers quit their jobs every day, for better reasons than Smith gave. Certainly, thousands of workers every day are expected to make ethical or other compromises in order to do their jobs. But they never get a voice. Today the Web was full of joke resignation letters ("Why I'm Leaving Seaworld, from Slate; Why I'm Leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader") but it is annoying that the Times would pretty much never publish a disgruntled goodbye from a teacher leaving the public school system or an MTA employee angry that the union has made too many concessions in the contract negotiations.
The Times should at least consider that it's sending a terrible message by publishing this-- that the travails and ethical dillemas of a Wall Street derivative banker are somehow more important than the same problems when faced by anybody else. Maybe instead of real estate next to Thomas Friedman, our former Goldman banker should fire up the Wordpress like everybody else.
Hey, Smith... go blog it, buddy.