Goldman Sachs Staff Weigh In On Exec's Bitter Resignation Letter
Following former Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith's outspoken disapproval of the way the investment bank is running its business these days, lots of Goldman employees are weighing in on his actions and what it's like to work at the firm.
Smith's now-infamous op-ed piece Wednesday in The New York Times described the storied banking giant's culture as "toxic and destructive," and laid much of the blame for the perceived downfall on current CEO Lloyd Blankfein and President Gary Cohn for failing to maintain the company's standards.
"I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work," writes Smith, who headed Goldman's equity derivatives business in Europe.
The Times' DealBook website quotes several former Goldman employees -- mostly anonymous -- who agreed and disagreed with Smith's comments.
One unnamed analyst who left the firm last year says that Smith is merely piling onto recent criticism that Wall Street is too greedy. "I think blaming the top alone is unfair. It's largely conjecture, but I think Lloyd and Gary care very much about the firm, its people and its culture."
Another, a former Goldman trader who also left the firm last year, said he was "shocked" by Smith comments but also agreed with him. "[Smith] has some really good points, and a lot of people feel this way. It's been like that for a while, but this is the year people are realizing things are structurally different," the Times quotes the trader as saying.
Still others said Smith's complaints were little more than rantings of a middle manager destined to go no further within Goldman. "He's the functional equivalent of a VP at Goldman, far from an 'executive,' so [referring to him as an executive] was misleading," the Times quotes another former Goldman employee as saying.
"I guess what I'm saying is that if Greg Smith had his eyes truly open, he would have had the same issues six years ago as he had last week," the source says.
Goldman isn't standing pat in the face of Smith's criticism, Reuters reports. Blankfein and Cohn hit back, saying in a statement to employees: "We were disappointed to read the assertions made by this individual that do not reflect our values, our culture and how the vast majority of people at Goldman Sachs think about the firm and the work it does on behalf of our clients.
"In a company of our size, it is not shocking that some people could feel disgruntled," they added.
But the company appears to be sounding off in more subtle ways, as well, that may result escalate to a feud between Smith and the company.
In what sounds like a possible leak from Goldman's public-relations team, CNBC reports, a "person familiar with the matter" questions Smith's claim to have held an important role at the firm.
Current Goldman employees have also weighed in anonymously with their opinions of what it's like to work at Goldman (albeit, before Smith's article) via Glassdoor, an employment website that seeks to provide job seekers with the inside scoop on companies' work environments.
Many describe the company in positive terms, but there are also those who say the investment bank isn't what it used to be.
"The 'prestige' factor for both the firm and the industry is clearly not where it was 5-10 year[s] ago, but it's still one of the top places to work," writes one reviewer, who claims to be Goldman executive director.
Another reviewer, described as a Goldman employee in New York, says, "The firm is starting to lose its luster, so it's harder to justify treating your people poorly for the sake of reputation."
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