An Open Letter to Greg Smith

Dear Greg Smith,

By now, your inbox has probably exploded (oh how I wish I could sift through those notes for you). You’ve probably received hundreds of Facebook friend requests (yes!) and LinkedIn page views (networking never takes a vacation). You’ve probably sent a few calls from your mom straight to voicemail. She, by the way, really wants you to call her back: Why didn’t you tell me over Shabbat dinner that you were so unhappy? I had no idea you hunted elephants! How exciting! Call me back please. I’m your mother. I love you. Your father and I are moving in.

Like your mom and thousands of people around the world, I read your letter. Some of us frequently write such things at 2 am over vodka after a long-ass week of work. Most of us remember to hit “delete” before pressing “send.” Most of us also remember to remove oped@nytimes.com from the TO line. But hey. Details.

I commend you for your honesty and willingness to stand up for what you feel (very Stanford of you). You made a few salient points that I’m sure made Mr. Blankfein and Mr. Cohn blink while they scanned the pre-crafted response email from their PR team. (Nice job PR team, by the way. Everyone is always put at ease by employee surveys, industry rankings, facts and figures. Clearly the major takeaway from Greg’s letter was that Goldman Sachs offers a poor work environment. Glad you nipped that recruiting shit-storm in the bud!) And I also want to say thank you on behalf of aspiring financiers around the world for so clearly outlining how to climb the ladder at Goldman. Axes, Elephants and Acronyms. Got it.

But back to those salient points. Those daggers to Sachs’ soul.

  1. You attend derivatives sales meetings and all everyone talks about is how to make money off of clients (aka “Muppets”). This is ludicrous! I attend sales meetings all the time and we NEVER talk about how to make money.
  2. You don’t actually know about any illegal behavior (phew! that’d be bad!), but you’re concerned about a lack of humility among employees at the most powerful institution in the world. Fair.
  3. Every day, the fine folks of Goldman push “lucrative and complicated” products to clients “even if they are not the simplest investments” or directly aligned with the client’s goals. Okay, so we’re dealing with two things: 1. A lack of communication skills (humanities majors need to start going into finance, dammit) and 2. confusion about what the goals of this whole operation are. Clearly the client’s goals are not the point. Unless they align with Goldman’s.
  4. You’re astounded by the idiocy of senior management who don’t seem to understand that trust is the only reason clients do business with Goldman Sachs. Ouch, way to stick it to the Boss Man! Decent logic, except for the fact that trust may come second to profit. Your clients will forever want to make money and Goldman might be the best of the worst.
  5. You desperately want the board of directors to stop the madness, push those spreadsheets to the side and focus on the client again. Not to worry. Clients are, and always will be, the only way financial firms can make money.
  6. You humbly request that HR weed out the “morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm.” It’s a witch hunt! Goldman loves games!
  7. You want your ex-firm to “get the culture right again, so people want to work there for the right reasons.” Whatever those elusive reasons might be…
  8. You firmly believe that “people who care only about making money will not sustain the firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.” (Americans: Carelessly making money for America since 1776.)

Anyways, I guess the point is – I’m sorry the firm you thought was a shining beacon of hope as you struggled through your sunny life at Stanford turned out to be just as evil as the rest of ’em. Thank goodness you have table tennis to carry you through the dark days of unemployment. Maccabiah Games 2013?? Not that you’d need it (being virtually independently wealthy by now) but I’m sure we can wrestle up a few corporate sponsors if it came to it. Screw bronze. Go for the gold, man!

Sincerely,

Sara

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