Why I Left Goldman Sachs, Chapter Three: “My Alleged Competition”

In the ping pong game of life, even your most trusted blade can’t swat away an opponent with super-sized balls.—Unknown

On Monday morning, Grand Central Publishing will release Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story, a memoir penned by former Goldman employee Greg Smith, based on his op-ed for the New York Times entitled, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” When Smith’s piece came out last March, few if any senior executives inside the bank were pleased, in part because it came as a total shock. No one at Goldman had known Smith was planning to have his resignation letter printed in the paper. No one had known he had issues with the firm’s supposedly new and singular focus on making money at all costs. No one, at least at the top, even knew who Greg was. Obviously all this left the bank at a competitive disadvantage in terms of fighting back and for the time being, Smith appeared to be handing Goldman its ass. Getting cocky, even. Perhaps thinking to himself, “When all of this is over, I could be named the new CEO of Goldman Sachs.”  As anyone who has ever won a bronze medal in ping-pong at the Maccabiah Games will tell you, however, winners are determined by best of threes. And that anyone going to to the table with Goldman Sachs should be prepared for things to get ugly.

Which is why it should not have come as a surprise that after getting hydrated, regrouping, and coming up with a plan of attack, Goldman kicked off round two with a delightfully bitchy, exceptionally underminery comment to the press re: Smith’s tale being no more interesting than that of a disgruntled first-year analyst who thinks he’s got a story to tell and then followed it up with a leak of Greg’s less than flattering performance reviews to the Financial Times. What probably did come as a surprise, however, was today’s hilariously aggressive Bloomberg article re: Mr. Smith wherein:

* He’s described as a petulant child with unrealistic expectations for his career advancement

* It’s suggested, by saying outright, that his op-ed complaints about the firm were nothing more than him having “an axe to grind” on account of not advancing beyond vice-president, as demonstrated by the fact that as of 2010, he was happy with the firm, wanted to become a managing director and had no intention of leaving

* People are left to connect the dots re: Smith and lady bosses (“Goldman Sachs put a different managing director in charge of Smith as it considered giving him a sales job. The report says he ‘found the transition difficult’ and considered the female MD who ran the desk a peer at not his boss”)

Anyway, as we head into the final game of the set with a tie score, the following is a tremendous anecdote from Chapter 3 of Why I Left Goldman Sachs involving an actual game of ping-pong, John Whitehead’s Business Principles, and the lessons one learns as a first-year at GS about the importance of throwing a match to a client despite knowing full-well you could wipe the floor with him or her (and thinking you were sent to Boston to do just that), if you so chose. 

After hearing of my past sports success, Rudy immediately fired off an e-mail to Ted Simpson, saying “Springbok will be representing the New York desk at the Ping-Pong tournament.”

Simpson wrote back: “Who’s Springbok?”

In response, Rudy e-mailed him a photograph of a springbok, the actual animal. You had to be there, but I thought it was hilarious.

So I flew to Boston on Goldman’s tab– the justification being that while there, I could meet with Prakash and talk Israeli tech stocks– and met Ted Simpson.


The backstory of the annual Goldman Sachs Ping-Pong Tournament, Ted told me, was that the same guy, an Indian portfolio manager from Putnam, had won it five years in a row, and that winning the tournament was the highlight of the guy’s year. But from the moment I walked into Jillian’s- a pleasure palace replete with free-flowing alcohol, spicy chicken wings, bowling alleys, plasma TVs, and dozens of Foosball, pool and table tennis tables– and saw my alleged competition practicing, I knew he didn’t have a chance against me.

I’m not trying to brag. But competitive table tennis, like every sport, has its levels. Any number of internationally ranked players could have (and had) made mincemeat out of me, yet simply put, the Putnam portfolio manager (let’s call him PPM) and I were not in the same league. I was confident he wouldn’t be able to return my serve, and if it came to a rally, he wouldn’t be prepared for the kind of sever spins I could put on the ball. I could see he was a very good basement player, nothing more. I could have beaten him in my sleep.

The tournament draw was posted. Thirty-two people, and PPM was seeded number one. Since the organizers knew I was good, I was the number two seed. Play began.

I was rusty– I’d been working such long hours since joining Goldman that I’d barely picked up a paddle– but soon I remembered my form. And nobody gave me a serious challenge. PPM and I plowed through our halves of the draw, heading toward an inevitable confrontation. I watched a couple of his matches. PPM’s opponents were easy pickings: recreational players dressed in jeans and polo shirts. And PPM, looking very professional in his special sneakers and running shorts, T-shirt, and headband, was mopping them up. Of course he’d brought his own paddle– a serious player would never show up without his own stick. And of course I’d brought along my trusty Donic Appelgren blade, red on one side, black on the other.

Ted Simpson and I were looking on as PPM took down another player. “So what are we thinking here?” I asked Ted. “I”m going to meet this guy in the final, and if play properly, I’m going to beat him twenty-one to two. What’ the right course of action?”

Ted looked thoughtful. “Well,” he said after a moment, “this guy is one of our biggest clients; he takes this stuff really seriously.” At that moment, PPM whaled away at a forehand that just clipped the table edge and skipped off, unreturnable; he raised his arms in victory. “We need to make it a close game,” Ted said. “Get some good rallies going.”

I told Ted I had been thinking along the same lines. That I should beat PPM, because it was obvious I could beat him, but that I should keep it close. Not embarrass him. I knew how to do that, I said. You just make a few unforced errors here and there.

“Hmm,” Ted said.

“You have a different idea?” I asked.

“Well, the guy is one of our biggest clients,” he repeated, giving me a significant look.

“You’re suggesting–?”

“Maybe,” he said. And then: “Watch for my signal.”

I gave Ted a look– he was smiling– and took my Donic out of its case.

The match began. A crowd had gathered to watch us play. Everybody was having fun– except for my opponent, who was taking the match very seriously. When I won a few points in the early going, I could see him getting upset.

So I eased up. I could have really turned on the heat, hit some crazy shots past him that would have whizzed by his ear– but I didn’t. My whole plan was to keep the ball in play. To give the crowd a good show, instead of slicing the ball back when PPM smashed it at me, I would lob it up for him so he could smash it again. Smash, lob. Smash, lob. Oohs and has from the onlookers. After three or four exchanges like this, I’d either hit it into the net or give PPM such an easy pop-up that he could make a legitimate put-away on me. I was letting him show off for his fellow clients a little bit. He loved it.

The matches were best two out of three, and my plan was to squeak out a win in the second game, then maybe win by just a little more in the third. But when I was ahead 15 to 12 in the second, Ted Simpson caught my eye. He gave a little shake of the head, and then, using his left hand as a shield, gave me a quick thumbs-down with his right. I’m quite sure nobody but Ted and I knew what was going on. I nodded. After all, wasn’t putting the client first number one of John Whitehead’s 14 Business Principles?

The Putnam portfolio manger was very magnanimous in victory– as i was in defeat.

Greg Smith Quit Goldman Sachs After ‘Unrealistic’ Pitch For $1M [Bloomberg]

Earlier: Greg Smith: Goldman Sachs Interns Taught Harsh But Important Lessons By Demanding But Affable Managing Directors; What Else Does Goldman Sachs Have In Store For Greg Smith?; Goldman Sachs Unimpressed By Sophomoric Writing Efforts Of Former Employee; Resignation Letter Reveals Goldman Sachs Is In The Business Of Making Money, Hires People Who Don’t Know How To Tie Their Shoes; Jewish Ping-Pong Tournament Participant / Sixth-Year Goldman Sachs Vice President Is Looking For His Next Challenge; Goldman Sachs Accuser Greg Smith (Might Have) Lied About That Which He Holds Most Sacred

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83 Responses to “Why I Left Goldman Sachs, Chapter Three: “My Alleged Competition””

  1. Lloyd says:

    Ping pong? We're talking about ping pong man.

  2. Guestido says:

    What a fucking dweeb

  3. pazzo83 says:

    This book should be a best-seller in 2013.

    – Mayans

  4. PPM says:

    I call BS.

  5. guest says:

    Goldman PR must be getting happier with each excerpt release, because this stuff is just breathtakingly dull. I almost want it to cut deeper, but this is barely interesting. Looking forward to Grand Central Publishing clawing back as much of that advance as possible.

  6. Translator says:

    "You had to be there" = I think I just told a stupid joke

  7. guest says:

    There are different levels in baseball. If I wanted to, I could have gone all Carlos Beltran on them, but since the O's and the Tigers are such big clients of ours…

    – A-Rod

  8. LMFAO says:

    Hadn't picked up a paddle in years…

  9. Guest says:

    Never happened.

    He lifted this bit from a Brady Bunch episode.

  10. Guestacular says:

    "red on one side, black on the other."

    I would have had no idea what the paddle looked like without this description

  11. Guest says:

    This book is going to be so bad that I'm going to have to read it.

  12. guest says:

    Absolutely the worst knock-off of Liar's Poker yet. Guaranteed he uses the term "Big Swinging Dick" at some point…

  13. Guest says:

    I wonder how much Smith paid Cosmo Kramer for that yarn.

    – J. Peterman

  14. L. Auchincloss, CFA says:

    Greg, this is a bad story and you should feel bad.

  15. guest says:

    "Jillian's-a pleasure palace…" Guy really didn't get out much.

  16. Guest says:

    What Greg Smith does not know at this point is that Tim Simpson has ten grand on the Indian PM. The prefect sting.

  17. Guest says:

    Didn't he see Gladiator? Thumbs down means "kill him," not follow one of John Whitehead’s 14 Business Principles

  18. Im_a_Dude says:

    I'm on the edge of my seat. he should be an announcer for Wimbledon.

  19. Peedatgs says:

    I can't believe the dirty underhanded dealings that go on at that place just to make money. Dirty ping pongers.

  20. Shecky Blankfein says:

    Two Goldman Sachs investment bankers had been working all night setting up the commisary for the Goldman Sachs Ping Pong Tournament. They were tired from not only working a 14 hours that day but having to travel and work all night to set up the refreshment stand. While in the process of setting up folding tables and readying a small refrigerator and crock pot, one GS guy noted contestants and onlooker/employees starting to show up for the tourney. He noted, "I wonder how long it will be before someone walks up and asks us what we're doing?" About that time, an equity sales rep for GS from Dallas saunters over and asks, "What are you guys doing here?"

    First GS guy says, "Well, why… as a matter of fact we're selling assholes……

    Equities Guy from Dallas replies, "Well you must be doing good cause it looks like you've only got two left!"

  21. 2013 Intern says:

    Are the hookers and blow in Chapter 4?

  22. Guest says:

    "and took my Donic out of its case"

    No knowing anything about pinball, I thought this was going in a completely different direction

  23. Guesteeculos says:

    And not a a single pair of panties in the room was dry…

    Great stuff, riveting !!

    Saw the replay on the ocho.

    – Ping Pong Nation

  24. guest says:

    Warning: in level 38 of future Goldman Sachs interviews, they will require you read Greg Smith's book. Anyone who pisses on it gets a free pass to level 41.

  25. PermaGuestII says:

    "The Gods Must Be Crazy III" A comic allegory about a traveling South African simpleton who encounters modern civilization and its stranger aspects, including a clumsy analyst and a band of boring salesmen.

  26. Gormania says:

    GS secret to success is letting Indian's beat you at ping pong?

  27. Agent Smith says:

    "The Putnam portfolio manger was very magnanimous in victory– as i was in defeat."

    I was so magnanimous, in fact, that I felt obliged to include the story in my book, going on record to tell the world that I could have beaten him in my sleep.

  28. Dan Loeb says:

    There is word that there is a chapter on a wild bachelor party that included drinking and tales of a stripper going topless. I am at the edge of my seat and cannot wait to read of mid level investment banker debauchery.

  29. Scarecrow says:

    This is a courageous tale of an employee willing to leave after he gets his money, and book advance.

  30. thisbooksucks says:

    Amazing. He has the journalistic genius and charisma of greg michaels and dennis kneal… Combined!!

  31. Donic marketing rep. says:

    Son of a bitch…

  32. vvvv says:

    he has a small cock, nuff said

  33. Guest says:

    At this point, goldman's Media Relations team is equipped with the PR equivalent of fully automatic military assault rifles, with night vision and laser scopes. And has recently acquired phosphorous grenades, cluster bombs and anti personnel fragmentation mines.

    (RIP, George Carlin)

  34. E. Cartman says:

    Hey – it's called table tennis, and you should know that. Don't cheapen the sport, Jew.

  35. Captain M says:

    I cant wait for his next book "50 Shades of Greg" where he shoves that Donic up his ass… sideways.

  36. Captain Morg says:

    Working at an investment bank is so 2000 and late…

  37. Clients first says:

    fuck emmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  38. Guest says:

    First thought that comes to mind when I see Mr. Smith.

  39. LetsBreel says:

    "I could have really turned on the heat, hit some crazy shots past him that would have whizzed by his ear"

    Hitting balls up near an opponents face is something my five year old nephew is excellent at. Guess we have a future world champion on our hands.

  40. Wilford T Braintree says:

    When did he travel to China with Forrest Gump I forget-

  41. sometimes it is not always popular to join someone like goldman sachs because you will not receive any leeway or personal training they are a shark tank kind of organization and this is common knowledge in the financial community..