Canary in a coal mine or bird of prey


So Greg Smith quit Goldman Sachs. He told us why in his March 2012 New York Times op ed piece. He’s telling us even more in his new book “Why I left Goldman Sachs” available online or at a bookstore near you. He got a cool $1.5 million advance to expose the seamy underbelly of investment banking. That maybe makes up for some of the earning potential he lost when he blew up his bridges earlier this year.

Goldman Sachs has something to tell us too. Following a thorough investigation they revealed that in fact, Greg Smith thought too highly of himself. He wanted more money than he deserved, they say, and when they denied him his king’s ransom, he went public with his fairytale of a culture mired in greed, disrespect and opacity. Read all about it, right here.

So, who to believe?

I’m thinking more Greg Smith than Goldman Sachs, and here’s why: their defence is too personal to be credible. When somebody accuses your organization of having a poisonous culture that encourages client fleecing, you should indeed conduct an investigation. Chances are, there is at least some truth to the allegations. Good for Goldman Sachs for doing so.

What you do not do, following that investigation, is chalk it up to a disgruntled employee wanting more payola. It’s too simple, and corporations are anything but. It’s also disrespectful of your clients, who are all wondering if they’re just muppets to you.

If I were Goldman Sachs, I’d stick to the facts. Mr. Smith made some allegations. We investigated them. We found no evidence to support them, but we take these things seriously. We’re going to redouble our efforts to ensure every person who works at Goldman Sachs acts with integrity and respect, always. Because that’s who we are. Specifically, we will ensure that every employee xxx, yyy, zzz etc. Then, I’d make damn sure to follow through.

I wouldn’t just chalk it up to an angry dude wanting more money. That’s easy and predictable, and it hardly convinces anyone that you’ve got any integrity at all.