I don’t know much about Goldman personally, other than that article by Matt Taibbi and now the letter. All I know is when I was trying to short ABX (a mortgage-backed index) in early 2007 Goldman had absolutely the worst bids, meaning they didn’t want to take the other side of the trade. That spoke volumes. They had the same axe I did! More recently, at a party, a person who didn’t know that I knew he worked at Goldman said that he worked at “a hedge fund”. And it’s not like I asked.
But a few thoughts on the letter and on the reaction. Reading the reaction the first thing I thought was that even while on the buy side I didn’t have enough time to read anything unrelated to work, let alone comment on it. At Goldman, by nature of it being the sell side, I assume, people work even harder thus having no time for and no access to social sites. Which, using further deduction, means that people posting derogatory comments about the guy do not and have never worked at Goldman. And if they do now they are not Goldman material and should be fired.
Furthermore, some commenters are upset that he slammed the door on the company that nurtured him, others are upset that his epiphany came a little too late. Some say that he was a nobody, a low-level employee, but the others say that it’s nice to slam the door when you’ve got enough money to never have to work again. So which is it? He cannot be all of the above. Frankly, I don’t think that a VP, even at Goldman, even after 12 years has enough to retire. So kudos to him there.
On the other hand it’s hard to ignore the nature of his disappointment. Goldman is in the business of making money, not saving the world. The daily routine for an average Wall Street worker is dull and unrewarding but it pays well. Perhaps, with his skills he would be better suited working for World Bank or the UN. To be well paid and receive satisfaction from your job – well, that’s too much to ask for these days. It’s either or. But he wanted both.
I saw some of those “Muppets” at the industry conferences – guys from pension funds and German banks. It’s not an inaccurate description at all. They wanted yield and they didn’t care how they got it. So Goldman and other banks provided. KYC (know you client) they did. If they didn’t give the client what he wanted he would have gone to another dealer – an anathema to any banker worth his keep! And it wasn’t illegal, and those were qualified institutional investors! And if they weren’t – it wasn’t Goldman’s fault. I’m not defending Goldman at all, I’m just describing a part of the larger environment that got the snowball rolling. Inept investors with billions to invest, smart Goldman bankers – it’s like two naked people in bed – what do you think was gonna happen?
Wall Street, as described in detail in many of my earlier posts, is a close-knit community with us vs. them mentality. Even more pronounced at Goldman I would think. Everybody outside is a loser, a non-entity. Greg Smith is outside now. I understand that Goldman as a company is not pleased with whistleblower like him. But I don’t understand why laymen are angry at the guy. I think what he did is a good exercise of free will – leaving Goldman with a slam of the door. He may be mistaken about some things but he’s not without balls.