It must be every boss’ worst nightmare: to receive an employee’s resignation letter on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. And so Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein could be excused for suspending his efforts doing “God’s work” for a few moments as he lamented reading Greg Smith’s very public letter of resignation, called “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” in Wednesday’s Gray Lady.
First he was probably wondering, “who is this Greg Smith?” Though Smith has an impressive job title, “executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa,” as The Times put it in his bio–Goldman Sachs has some 30,000 employees and nothing Smith wrote about in his op-ed conveyed the sense that he was especially important at the firm.
In fact, from the biographical details Smith includes, one gets the sense he is in his early 30s and his responsibilities have included recruiting and mentoring college kids for the firm’s internship program. Smith brags that his clients have a total asset base in excess of a trillion dollars, but at Goldman Sachs it doesn’t take too many clients to reach sums in the trillions.
The nub of Smith’s complaint is that “the interests of the client continue to be sidelined” in deference to “whatever will bring the biggest profit” to the firm. And this vexes the moral principles of the young man: “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like selling my clients a product that is wrong for them.”