Much twittering today about the New York Times op-ed in which a Goldman Sachs executive announces his resignation. Iain Martin, for instance, suggests it is "a devastating knee in the nuts" for the world’s leading infamous financial institution. Perhaps so, though I rather suspect most people who think about these things are already pretty sceptical about Goldman Sachs and other insitutions of that ilk. Still, Greg Smith’s article is unintentionally amusing. To wit:
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
Oh come off it! A spirit of humility? Really? I don’t spend much time with Goldman Sachs employees but I doubt those I do know would say that the firm ever suffered from an excess of humility in the past. On the contrary, a decade ago, when Mr Smith joined the firm, Goldman people considered themselves the biggest swinging dicks on Wall Street. To the best of my knowledge Goldman, like other investment banks, was quite keen on making money then too. I don’t believe it is only recently that Goldmanites have taken to referring to their clients as "muppets". And it has certainly been the case, I believe, that the easiest way to be fired from Goldman (or any of its rivals) was to bring in less money than the guy on the next desk. Investment banking wasn’t a pretty business when Mr Smith joined the firm in 2000 and it ain’t a pretty business now.
The boys at the Daily Mash have it about right:
The Empire is one of the galaxy’s largest and most important oppressive regimes and it is too integral to galactic murder to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of Yoda College that I can no longer in good conscience point menacingly and say that I identify with what it stands for.
[…] How did we get here? The Empire changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and killing your former mentor with a light sabre. Today, if you make enough money you will be promoted into a position of influence, even if you have a disturbing lack of faith.
What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s ‘axes’, which is Empire-speak for persuading your clients to invest in ‘prime-quality’ residential building plots on Alderaan that don’t exist and have not existed since we blew it up. b) ‘Hunt Elephants’. In English: get your clients – some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t – to tempt their friends to Cloud City and then betray them. c) Hand over rebel smugglers to an incredibly fat gangster
[…] The Empire today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough about remote strangulation. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.
I hope this can be a wake-up call. Make killing people in terrifying and unstoppable ways the focal point of your business again. Without it you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much non-existant Alderaan real estate they sell. And get the culture right again, so people want to make millions of voices cry out in terror before being suddenly silenced.
Preach it, Mr Rafferty. The force is with you.
UPDATE: Felix Salmon has more. With the bonus that he actually knows something about investment banking.