Unlike the life-changing partnership ritual that takes place every two years, the managing director promotions, announced today, are more of a light pat on the ass that says, you’re doing a pretty okay job so far, but don’t get cocky. You’ve graduated from VP (a title which is now, amazingly, described to the layman as “the level attained by the disgruntled former employee Greg Smith”), and that’s something to be proud of, but stay hungry for the reach-around.
Book excerpt: Adam Baldwin’s “Heroes and Villains of Finance” is a fascinating dive into the history of money as an institution, highlighting the fifty most significant figures that, rightly or wrongly, are responsible for the financial landscape we live in today.
As many of you know, here at Dealbreaker we consider ourselves the preeminent scholars on Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn’s grundle. Specifically, the grundle-to-face conversations he reportedly enjoys having with employees on the trading floor. So we were more than a little delighted to hear that Greg Smith’s book, Why I Left Goldman Sachs, contained a passage describing Cohn’s preferred position to assume while havin’ a chat. Sayeth Smith:
Gary had a very distinctive signature move, one he had become famous for within the firm; I must have seen it ten or fifteen times in action. It didn’t matter if the person he was talking to was male or female; he would walk up to the salesman or saleswoman, hike up one leg, plant his foot on the person’s desk, his thigh close to the employee’s face, and ask how markets were doing. Gary was physically commanding, and the move could have been interpreted as a very primal, alpha-male gesture. I think he just thought it was comfortable.
For those who have made claims that Smith’s book is light on details that any exposé worth its salt would include, please note that reporters at investigative powerhouse Bloomberg News would probably nod approvingly at the above, based on an article they penned last year.
Cohn, 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, can be intimidating, two former colleagues said. He would sometimes hike up one leg, plant his foot on a trader’s desk, his thigh close to the employee’s face, and ask how markets were doing, they said.
“I landed in New York at JFK International close to midnight on the day the […]
Some Investors Open to Higher US Tax to Shave Deficit (Reuters)
In recent weeks, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon became the latest Wall Street heavyweights to say they would be willing to pay more in exchange for a deal to balance the country’s books.
AIG’s Benmosche On Why Capitalism Still Works (NYM)
As its vaguely omnipotent name suggests, American International Group contained a little of everything: a small bank, an airline-leasing company, and a terrifyingly vast array of international companies that underwrote everything from cows in India to satellites orbiting the Earth. To the emergency team that came in following the crises, the impulse was to get rid of everything, to disassemble this Frankenstein monster once and for all. This was the idea behind Project Destiny. Benmosche had a different one. “Say you’re sitting there, you have gangrene,” he says to me one morning, before I’ve even had coffee. “And I don’t have any instruments. All I have is an ax. And I’ve gotta grab the ax and cut that sucker off. But the ax is dull. And it makes a mess. That’s what they did, in the beginning. They whacked that sucker off. And they kept hacking. But there was value in the body that was left. The body could produce things. And it owed people. What are you going to do, kill the body? Want it to be so ugly and deformed that it could never live? No! What you do is you clean it up, make it more cosmetic. Maybe we can help them get a prosthesis. Maybe they can run in the Olympics one day, like a double amputee, as we saw. Can you imagine that? A double amputee running in the race.”
Goldman Bonus System Corrupted In 2005, Smith Book Says (Bloomberg)
Before 2005, the company determined workers’ annual awards “not just on how much business you’d brought in, but also on how good you were for the organization,” Smith, a former vice president, writes in “Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story.” “From 2005 until the present day, the system has become largely mathematical: you were paid a percentage of the amount of revenue next to your name,” a figure that could vary from 5 percent to 7 percent, wrote Smith, 33, without saying how he learned about such a change. “The problem with the new system was that people would now do anything they could — anything — to pump up the number next to their name.”
129 Minutes With Goldman Turncoat Greg Smith (NYM)
Why I Left Goldman Sachs may disappoint those who hoped for a collection of sordid Wall Street bacchanalia. Smith saw no financial crimes in progress at the bank, and his tales of Goldman life are mostly anodyne workplace micro-dramas told with wide-eyed breathlessness. The book’s most lurid revelation is that Smith once saw Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein naked at the company gym. With the book done, Smith says he’s looking forward to resuming a normal life, possibly as a speaker and pundit. Among other things, he’d like to meet a woman. “I’m not anti-capitalism at all,” he says. “I want Goldman to be admired. I just don’t like this notion that ethics and capitalism are different things.”
Argentina orders evacuation of ship seized by hedgie Paul Singer as collateral for unpaid bonds (AP)
Argentina announced the immediate evacuation Saturday of about 300 crew members from the ARA Libertad, a navy training ship seized in Africa nearly three weeks ago as collateral for unpaid bonds dating from the South American nation’s economic crisis a decade ago. Only the captain and a few other members of the crew of 326 sailors will remain on the three-masted tall ship, a symbol of Argentina’s navy.
Girl, 9, in black and white costume shot as relative mistakes her for skunk (NYDN)
A 9-year-old girl was shot outside a Halloween party Saturday night in Western Pennsylvania, taking a bullet to the shoulder from a male relative who mistook her for a skunk. The condition of the girl wasn’t released Sunday, but police in rural New Sewickley Township said she was alert and talking as she was flown to a hospital in Pittsburgh, 30 miles away. Neither the girl nor her relative was identified. She was spotted on a hillside around 8:30 p.m. wearing a black costume and black hat with a white tassel, according to the Beaver County Times. The relative who accidentally injured her was carrying a shotgun. Police Chief Ronald Leindecker said the man wasn’t under the influence of alcohol, and was unsure whether he would be charged.
Prince Alwaleed Praises Pandit for Citigroup Crisis Handling (Bloomberg)
Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal praised Vikram Pandit for his handling of the financial crisis while chief executive officer at Citigroup, saying he helped position the bank for further growth. “Many companies like HSBC, Barclays and Standard Chartered shrank and went back to their roots,” Alwaleed, the largest individual investor in Citigroup, said today at a conference in Dubai. “Citigroup never blinked on that. It’s the only global bank at the moment and really the potential is there,” 57-year- old Alwaleed said, adding that Pandit did a “good” job as CEO.
West Coast Will Be In ‘Colossal’ Mess In 5 To 10 Years, Says Marc Faber (CNBC)
Faber argued that the political systems in place in the West would allow the debt burden to continue to expand. Under such a scenario of never-ending deficits, the Western world would rack up huge deficits. One day, the system would break, he said. “Eventually, you have either huge changes occurring in a peaceful fashion through reforms, or, usually, through revolutions,” he said. The U.S. is getting closer to such a revolution, he said, as is Europe.
Vampire Pong: Ex-Goldman Banker Takes On A Pro (Fortune)
Halfway through a recent match, set up by Fortune between Smith and Wally Green, one of the top pros in the country, Smith crouches, leans his head toward the table and serves. The pro swings and misses. Ace….Smith brought own paddle in a soft vinyl case to the match, which was held at Spin, a club in New York. The best part of Smith’s game is his serve, which is a deceptive spinning wonder that appears to be going much faster than it is. His first serve of the match, like a number of others, goes right by Green. Smith is up 1-0. “That’s a very good serve,” says Green.
Baby Walrus Adapts To Life In Brooklyn (NYT)
A team of 15 is caring for him around the clock. His favorite toy is a plastic bucket. He has taken swimmingly to a large pool. And on Friday, he had his first taste of solid food — surf clams. “He’s hitting every milestone we’re hoping to see,” said Jon Forrest Dohlin, director of the New York Aquarium in Coney Island, Brooklyn, part of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “He still has some issues with his bladder, but they are trending in the right direction. Behaviorally, he’s doing great and we’re feeling good about his progress.” He was describing Mitik, or Mit for short, one of two walrus calves separated from a herd in the Arctic Ocean and orphaned in Alaska in July. The Alaska SeaLife Center took them in and found new homes for each. (The other walrus, Pakak, went to the Indianapolis Zoo.) The New York Aquarium, eager for a young companion for its two older walruses, stepped up, flying a staff member, Martha Hiatt, to Alaska to work with Mit for a month. On Oct. 11, Ms. Hiatt, the aquarium’s behavioral husbandry supervisor, along with a veterinarian, accompanied Mit on a FedEx cargo jet from Anchorage to Newark. The walrus, believed to be about 16 weeks old, stayed in his crate during the six-hour flight. “It was loud,” Ms. Hiatt said of the trip. “He pretty much sang to us the entire time. We stayed with him, talked to him and hosed him off now and then.” […] much of Mit’s day consists of play, which helps his development and encourages his cooperation during medical procedures and feedings. One of his favorite activities is to scoop up a giant white bucket with holes through it. “He loves to run around with that on his head and vocalize,” Ms. Hiatt said.
Something you may have picked up on is that next week, Grand Central Publishing will release Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story, by former employee Greg Smith. Should you buy the book? That depends on you ask. Some people, like the ones who made Smith famous, say no. Others, like those who enjoy vivid descriptions of a naked Lloyd Blankfein and edge-of-your-seat ping pong matches, would probably say yes. One group of people who’d prefer you save your money? Goldman Sachs. As previously mentioned, the bank embarked on a Discredit Greg Smith tour last month which has involved equating him with a first or second or third-year analyst who thinks people care about all the crazy stuff he was privy to when in fact it wasn’t crazy and no one does; leaking unflattering performance reviews that suggest he was “unrealistic” about his abilities and earnings potential; and generally painting a picture of someone who was a nobody at the firm (“My first reaction [to hearing about his Op-Ed] was, who is he,” the firm’s head of HR told Bloomberg TV this morning), who wrote his book out of spite for not receiving the bonus he thought he deserved, and whose claims re: The Firm should not be trusted.
For the most part, a number of people– from current to former employees to those familiar but not intimately familiar with Goldman– have concurred with their assessment of young Greg. Of course, every now and then you have some individuals who speak out of turn and who should probably consider sleeping with one eye open.
There are a lot of people who acknowledge these things internally, but no one is willing to say it publicly,” Smith, who was a vice president when he left Goldman Sachs, said in the “60 Minutes” interview. “And my view was the only way you force people to change the system is by saying it publicly.” Seven former Goldman Sachs partners and managing directors, positions that are more senior than vice president, said in March interviews that Smith shouldn’t be taken seriously because he was a junior employee and may have been disgruntled about his pay or career. All asked not to be identified because they didn’t want to risk ruining their relationship with the firm. Six of the seven said they agreed with Smith’s criticism of how the firm has treated clients under Chief Executive Officer Lloyd C. Blankfein, 58, and President Gary D. Cohn, 52, and that current members of the management committee would, too. Even so, they said they don’t expect the board of directors to take action or that anything will change because the bank has made money and outperformed most rivals.
What? He shouldn’t be trusted because of X, Y, Z but, having said that, he does make some excellent points? Do you hear yourself talking? This is what happens when you don’t stick to the script!
Goldman Sachs Op-Ed Wasn’t a ‘Betrayal,’ Smith Tells 60 Minutes [Bloomberg]
*And will lucky if they’re not eating out of feeding tubes..
Goldman Sachs found no support for claims by Greg Smith, a former employee, that the […]
Mr. Smith outlines moments when he came into close contact with Goldman’s chairman and chief executive, according to pages reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Smith tells of one near-encounter when he saw Mr. Blankfein, sans clothes, after taking a shower at the gym. Mr. Blankfein was “air-drying,” Mr. Smith writes, something Mr. Smith took not as a display of power but as something men of an older generation tend to do. Another up-close-and-personal moment with the big boss came when Mr. Blankfein and Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Chief Executive Warren Buffett walked through the Goldman trading floor the day after Mr. Buffett’s $5 billion investment as Goldman was reeling in 2008. In the book, Mr. Smith says he had a co-worker snap a photo as he stood near Mr. Buffett.
Greg Smith: I Saw Blankfein Naked [Deal Journal]
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 breathtakingly aggressive Bloomberg piece 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”)
Relatedly, 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 allowing a client to enjoy the sweet taste of victory despite knowing full-well you could wipe the floor with him or her and bring home the gold, 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.
“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.
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
Morgan Stanley Posts Loss (WSJ)
“The rebound in fixed income and commodities sales and trading indicates that clients have re-engaged after the uncertainty of the rating review in the previous quarter,” Chief Executive James Gorman said, referring to Moody’s Investors Service’s move over the summer to downgrade the credit rating on more than a dozen banks. “We are beginning to unlock the full potential of the Global Wealth Management franchise, having increased our ownership of, and agreed on a purchase price for the rest of, Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.” For the quarter, Morgan Stanley reported a loss of $1.02 billion, compared with a year-earlier profit of $2.2 billion. The per-share loss, which reflects the payment of preferred dividends, was 55 cents compared with a profit of $1.15 a year earlier. Stripping out the impact of debt-valuation changes, the per-share profit was 28 cents versus two cents a share a year ago. Revenue fell 46% to $5.29 billion, including a negative impact of $2.3 billion from the tightening of credit spreads related to debt. Stripping out debt-valuation changes revenue was up 18% to $7.55 billion. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected earnings of 24 cents, excluding gains related to debt, on revenue of $6.36 billion.
Morgan Stanley Reduces Investment-Bank Pay to $5.2 Billion (Bloomberg)
The ratio of compensation to revenue in the unit fell to 44.9 percent, compared with 48.4 percent in the same period a year earlier, when excluding accounting gains and losses related to the firm’s credit spreads. That’s still higher than Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan’s investment bank. Compensation and benefits for all of Morgan Stanley totaled $12 billion in the first nine months, down 4 percent.
Goldman Ex-Employee Says Firm Pushed Europe Bank Options (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs sought to profit last year by persuading clients to buy and sell stock options on European banks such as BNP Paribas SA and UniCredit SpA, according to former employee Greg Smith’s new book. “We must have changed our view on each of these institutions from positive to negative back to positive ten times,” Smith writes in “Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story,” scheduled for release on Oct. 22. “I remember thinking, ‘How can we be doing this with a straight face? No thinking client could believe that conditions on the ground could change that frequently.”’ […] Smith also describes being disappointed with his $500,000 bonus at the end of 2006. “By any measure, I should have felt exceptionally lucky and grateful,” he writes. “But by the warped logic of Goldman Sachs and Wall Street, I was being screwed.”
U.S. to Get Downgraded Amid Fiscal ‘Theater,’ Pimco Says (Bloomberg)
“The U.S. will get downgraded, it’s a question of when,” Scott Mather, Pimco’s head of global portfolio management, said today in Wellington. “It depends on what the end of the year looks like, but it could be fairly soon after that.”
Asian Scion’s Trades Draw Scrutiny (WSJ)
A federal probe into an alleged multimillion-dollar insider trading scheme is focusing on the son of a deposed Central Asian autocrat once courted by the U.S. as a key ally in the war on terror, according to people involved in the investigation. The globe-spanning criminal case marks a turnabout by the U.S. against a ruling family it once relied on to keep open military supply lines to Afghanistan. For years, the U.S. maintained good relations with then-Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Now, the U.S. has prepared charges against the former strongman’s son, Maksim Bakiyev, who officials say spent some of his exile in London profiting from illegal tips on stocks trading on the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq. On Friday, the younger Mr. Bakiyev, 35, was arrested in England on an extradition request from the U.S. Mr. Bakiyev’s U.K. attorney, Michael O’Kane, declined to comment.
Computer programmer ‘quadruples productivity’ after hiring a woman to slap him in the face every time she catches him looking at Facebook (DM)
Maneesh Sethi placed an advert on Craigslist to recruit someone willing to monitor what he was looking at on his laptop. The computer expert and writer, from San Francisco, now pays a female employee £5 ($8) an hour to strike him in the face if she spots him wasting time on social media. Mr Seethi claims the unusual motivational system has helped him boost his productivity from just 35 percent to around 98 percent during the working day…Mr Seethi published details on his blog of his Craigslist advert, which was entitled ‘(Domestic gigs) Slap me if I get off task’. In it he wrote: ‘I’m looking for someone who can work next to me at a defined location (my house or a cafe) and will make sure to watch what is happening on my screen. ‘When I am wasting time, you’ll have to yell at me or if need be, slap me. ‘You can do your own work at the same time. Looking for help asap. Mr Seethi said he was inundated with offers from potential slappers and quickly hired a volunteer he names only as Kara.
He wrote: ‘Within minutes, my inbox began blowing up.
Up to 50% of Greek Workforce Strikes; Tipping Point Nears (CNBC)
As European Union leaders prepare to meet in Brussels on Thursday, Greece’s workers aim to make their voices heard by holding a 24-hour strike bringing the country to a halt. With the economy in the fifth year of a recession, the lost production could prove counterproductive and cost the economy 100 million euros ($131 million), according to one expert. Most business and public sector activity is expected to grind to a halt during the strike called by the ADEDY and GSEE unions that represent around 2 million people — half of Greece’s workforce. A protracted news blackout is also expected as television and radio broadcasters and newspapers shut for the day, according to Reuters.
Spain Banks Face More Pain as Worst-Case Scenario Turns Real (Bloomberg)
Spain’s request for 100 billion euros of European Union financial aid to shore up its banks is increasing concern about the nation’s growing liabilities. Standard & Poor’s downgraded the country’s debt rating by two levels to BBB-, one step above junk, from BBB+ on Oct. 10, saying it wasn’t clear who will bear the cost of recapitalizing banks. It cut the ratings of 11 lenders including Banco Santander SA and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria SA, Spain’s largest, two days ago, citing the sovereign downgrade.
Brothels Rescue Cash-Strapped Greek Soccer Team (AP)
Players on a cash-strapped Greek soccer team now wear pink practice jerseys with the logos “Villa Erotica” and “Soula’s House of History,” two bordellos it recruited as sponsors after drastic government spending cuts left the country’s sports clubs facing ruin. Other teams have also turned to unconventional financing. One has a deal with a local funeral home and others have wooed kebab shops, a jam factory and producers of Greece’s trademark feta cheese. But the amateur Voukefalas club — whose players include pizza delivery guys, students, waiters and a bartender — has raised eyebrows with its flamboyant sponsorship choice. Prostitution is legal in Greece, where brothels operate under strict guidelines. Though garish neon signs advertising their services are tolerated, the soccer sponsorship has ruffled some feathers in the sports-mad city of Larissa. League organizers have banned the pink jerseys during games, saying the deal violates “the sporting ideal” and is inappropriate for underage fans…Brothel owner Soula Alevridou, the team’s new benefactor, has already paid more than 1,000 euros ($1,312) for players to wear her jerseys. The team is appealing the game ban, but that doesn’t worry the 67-year-old Alevridou, who says she’s only in it because she loves soccer. “It’s not the kind of business that needs promotion,” she said, dressed all in white and flanked by two young women in dark leggings at a recent game. “It’s a word-of-mouth kind of thing.”
You needed to be very entrepreneurial and creative. Adding value as an intern often began with getting coffee for the desk every day; frequently, interns also did breakfast and lunch runs. You would literally take a pen and pad and go around to the ten or fifteen people on the desk and take everyone’s order. It’s a strange concept, but Wall Street looks at attention to detail as an indicator of how people are going to do in their job. If a kid keeps messing up the lunch order, he’s probably going to mess up something else down the line.
I remember one managing director– a few years after I’d started working at the firm– who was very sensitive about his lunch orders. He didn’t eat onion or certain other things. One day he asked an intern for a cheddar cheese sandwich, and the kid came back with a cheddar cheese salad. The kid handed it to him so proudly: “Here’s your cheddar cheese salad.” I was sitting next to the MD, so I remember the incident well. He opened the container, looked at the salad, looked up at the kid, closed the container, and threw it in the trash. It was a bit harsh, but it was also a teaching moment. The managing director joked about it with the kid afterward; he didn’t make a big deal about it. The lesson was learned.
Chapter 1: “I Don’t Know, But I’ll Find Out” [PDF]
Earlier: 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
As you may have heard, eleven short days from now Grand Central Publishing will release Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story. The book is the memoir of former Goldman employee Greg Smith, who in March of last year penned an op-ed for the New York Times called “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” a resignation letter of sorts in which Smith detailed the ways the firm had disappointed, sickened, and ultimately failed him, from opting for “shortcuts” over “achievement” to becoming, in the twelve years he worked there, a place that only cares about one thing and one thing only: “making money.” While perhaps another person would have turned a blind eye and said nothing, Greg had an obligation, as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist and a Maccabiah Games bronze medal finisher in ping-pong, to say ENOUGH. To violate his employer in the most gruesome fashion possible (that is, publicly), in front of clients and other interested parties. To let the world know this place he worked at for over a decade could continue to be a criminal enterprise but that he was moving on.
The piece, as you might have imagined, did not please many people at Goldman Sachs nor did the $1.5 million deal Smith scored shortly thereafter to write the book. In September, a spokesman for the firm issued a delightfully bitchy, exceptionally underminey 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 yesterday, amazingly and almost unbelievably but you must believe it because here it is, leaked details of Greg’s performance reviews to the Financial Times which, spoiler alert, are less than flattering.
Two people who managed Mr Smith said he was a solid performer but did not merit promotion to managing director, a distinction he apparently sought in 2009 and 2010. They also said he reacted badly to his bonus award in January this year. At the time one of his managers wrote in an email: “Greg Smith off the charts unrealistic, thinks he shld trade at multiples. We told him there’s v little tolerance for reactions like that and he needs to tone it down.”
Ignoring for a moment that the manager quoted sounds like one of those horrible people who oh so cleverly discusses humans as financial assets, and has probably told people “I’m short Greg Smith” in the past, is this strategic attack on a former employee not the most wonderful thing to come out of GS since Hank Paulson used voicemail to apologize for telling 80 percent of the firm they were worthless pieces of crap not worthy of cleaning the lining of his birds‘ cages? Particularly because they maintain he is so insignificant they’ve barely given him or his book any thought at all? And does it not get you excited for what’s to come in the run-up to October 22, i.e. what other ways Goldman has planned to humiliate and discredit Mr. Smith? Some ideas we assume they have already thought of include:
* Revealing the nickname he gave himself in firm emails (Agent Smith)
* Getting eyewitnesses to tell reporters that after getting shafted on his bonus, he was seen flying into a fit of mad rage, whipping his ping-pong paddle out of his holster, and screaming obscenities at passersby on the trading floor before he was restrained by Gary Cohn
* Leaking the original draft of his book he was working on circa 2009, entitled Why I Became A Managing Director At Goldman Sachs: A Success Story
Goldman’s ‘Muppet Hunt’ Draws A Blank [FT]
Earlier: 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
Back in March, a young man named Greg Smith published an Op-Ed in the Times called “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” Greg wrote that despite joining a firm that, in the beginning, cared about “teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by clients” and not “just about making money,” he’d ultimately come to be sickened by a place that, twelve years later, he couldn’t even recognize. A place that, on Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn’s watch, had lost its way. A place that, he’d come to see, was devoid of any sort of morals, whatsoever. A place that needed to take a long hard look at what it had become. A place that, he predicted, was not long for this earth. Because unlike Smith, whose proudest moments in life– “being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist and winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics,” respectively– involved hard work and no short cuts, “Goldman Sachs today,” Smith wrote, is all “about the shortcuts and not enough about achievements.” Goldman Sachs 2.o, one might say, hasn’t worked an honest day in its life and that didn’t feel right to Smith anymore.
The piece, which was said to come as shock to Goldman, did not please many people on the inside, nor did the $1.5 million deal Smith scored shortly thereafter to write Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story, out October 22. Here’s how Greg’s publisher describes WILGS:
From the shenanigans of his summer internship during the technology bubble to Las Vegas hot tubs and the excesses of the real estate boom; from the career lifeline he received from an NFL Hall of Famer during the bear market to the day Warren Buffett came to save Goldman Sachs from extinction-Smith will take the reader on his personal journey through the firm, and bring us inside the world’s most powerful bank.
And while higher-ups at GS may have been initially worried about the potentially damaging revelations that would appear in the book, apparently time, a slap in the face and an order to ‘get it together you pustulant milquetoasts’ by the ghost of Lucas van Praag has resulted in this delightfully bitchy, exceptionally underminery comment from 200 West:
“Every day, some young professional, after a decade in a post-collegiate job, reassesses his or her career and decides to move on and do something else,” David Wells, a Goldman Sachs spokesman said Dealbook in an e-mailed statement. “Others can better judge whether Mr. Smith’s particular career transition is of unique interest.”
Regardless of whether or not Goldman is correct in its assessment that Greg’s sounds like the story dozens of analyst finishing their first year would tell of the “epic” stuff they witnessed during their 12 months of banking (+previous summer internship, during which things got pretty crazy) or if his particular career transition is indeed of unique interest, Dealbreaker will be hosting an evening of dramatic readings of select chapters, with yet-to-be secured GS alum/raconteur/boulevardier Lucas van Praag standing in for the part of Mr. Smith. Venue and ticket pricing to follow.
Former Banker Promises A Peek At Goldman Sachs [Dealbook]
Earlier: 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
As some of you may recall, back in 2007, Warren Buffett told Berkshire Hathaway shareholders […]
Late last week, investigative reporter Charlie Gasparino came out with a bombshell story: after reading former employee Greg Smith’s allegation that he’d seen and heard colleagues refer to clients as “muppets,” the British term for stupid people, the firm launched an investigation into the claim (e.g. searched emails for said word). On Friday, Gasparino breathlessly reported that while Goldman did find some muppet mentions, they referred to the Jason Segal film and were not malicious in their intent (quoth CG: “GS found no evidence of malicious muppet talk in emails). While a lesser journalist would have been content to take the source at his or her word, Charles Gasparino is no such journalist. He get kept digging on this one and now, amazingly, has more to add:
“People close to Goldman tell FOX Business 98% of the email muppet use referred to the movie. Sources at Goldman also say the malicious muppet use in emails involves name calling among colleagues; apparently at Goldman they call each other muppet. Sources say the firm find no evidence so far to substantiate Smith’s claims that people were talking about clients.”
The Journal this morning has a sort of funny article whose gist is basically that Asia’s new-money millionaires want actual performance from their private wealth managers and do unsporting things like split money among managers, demand products that offer impressive returns, and move money from managers who do a bad job to those who do a good job. You will not be surprised to learn that the bankers take kind of a dim view of this:
While clients in the West want to increase their wealth, they also are concerned with keeping what they have by sticking to conservative investments, and focusing on estate- and tax-planning strategies.
In Asia, clients also tend to be first generation rich, who want to make more money, rather than preserve it. They seek, as one banker said, “private brokers not private bankers.” …
“I have one client who now has more than 10 private bankers, saying he doesn’t want to depend on any one bank and risk his assets,” said Kenny Lam, McKinsey’s head of Asia private banking. “Asian clients are more interested in the next hot product rather than preserving wealth and are more likely to switch to the next banker with a better investment idea.”
Two and a half years ago the Journal ran what strikes me as a companion piece, about accumulators, which are an equity derivatives trade that banks sold mainly to Asian private-wealth clients and which revel in the nickname “I-kill-you-laters” because they do, and in 2008 they did. You can if you like connect the stories pretty effortlessly: Asian PWM clients demanded too-good-to-be-true returns, so banks happily obliged by selling them products with returns that were in fact too good to be true. And now they are demanding too-good-to-be-true returns and some banks are complaining because they can only offer mediocre-but-true returns, but others are probably just cooking up the next generation of delayed-death too-good-to-be-true products and not telling the Journal about it. Circle of life.
Earlier today, the Times reported that former Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith– he of third place Maccabiah Games finishes and very public breakup letters fame–, along with his newly acquired agent (Paul Fedorko), have been making the rounds at various publishing houses for the last week, pitching a book CNBC’s Kate Kelly saysmay go for more than $1 million at auction. It’s still in the early stages, though, and most likey untitled.
So! Let’s do him a solid and come up with some options. The tome is being pitched as a “coming-of-age story, the tale of someone who came into the business with good intentions and sky-high ideals that were ultimately pierced by Goldman’s obsessive focus on making money.” So far all we’ve got are “Why They Don’t Hug Anymore At Goldman Sachs,” “Sixth-Balling Your Clients— A Story Of Goldman Sachs,” and “Den of Thieves: Tripping Over Ethics And My Shoe-Laces At Goldman Sachs.” Surely you can do better.
A week ago today, a man named Greg Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs. As a sort of exit interview, Smith explained his reasons for departing the firm in a New York Times Op-Ed entitled “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs.” The equity derivatives VP wrote that Goldman had “veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say I identify with what it stands for.” Smith went on to note that whereas the Goldman of today is “just about making money,” the Goldman he knew as a young pup “revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients.” It was a culture that made him “love working for the firm” and its absence had stripped him of “pride and belief” he once held in the place. While claiming that Goldman Sachs has become virtually unrecognizable from the institution founded by Marcus (Goldman) and Samuel (Sachs), which put clients ahead of its own interests, is hardly a new argument, there was something about Smith’s words that gave readers a moment’s pause. He was so deeply distraught over the differences between the Goldman of 2012 and the Goldman of 2000 (when he was hired) that suggested…more. That he’d seen things. Things that had made an imprint on his soul. Things that he couldn’t forget. Things that he held up in his heart for how Goldman should be and things that made it all the more difficult to ignore when it failed to live up to that ideal. Things like this:
“Greg Smith got his 15 seconds of lame fame which is all it is. If […]
Yay, Greek CDS worked. But, as we talked about a bit, it almost didn’t: By […]
The New York Times, drawing criticism for running an op-ed by a former Goldman Sachs […]
Earlier this week, a man named Greg Smith resigned from Goldman Sachs. Smith informed his bosses of his decision to quit around 6:40 AM local (London) time and, a few hours later, circled in the rest of the world with an Op-Ed in the New York Times, which he penned not out of a desire to violate his (former) employer in the most gruesome fashion possible in front of clients and other interested parties but because he believed it to be the right, nay the only thing to do. In the piece, Greg explain that his decision to leave the firm after 12 years of service did not come easily but that he had to do it, realizing one day during rehearsals for the recruiting video he starred in that the lines he was delivering re: Goldman being a great place to work were a lie. A bald-faced one, in fact. Goldman had changed in the years since the Greg-ster arrived, and whereas it once felt like home and the people in it family, he’d come to regard it as a den of evil, run by monsters. Monsters who called clients “muppets”; who only cared about making money; who valued “shortcuts” over “achievement.” Of the latter, Greg spoke from plenty of experience. Though his personal achievements are too numerous to mention in full, they include being named a Rhodes scholar (finalist), learning to tie his shoes at the age of 22, winning third place for ping pong at the Maccabiah Games, and being named captain of the South American national table tennis team. OR WAS HE?
Not everyone gets to write a New York Times Op-Ed when they quit their job, however disaffected. It’s also easier to quit a job after twelve years of cashing investment banking paychecks. No matter how “morally bankrupt” Goldman Sachs is, Greg Smith isn’t giving his bonuses back.
Unlike Smith, who quit his job on his own terms and got to publish most of his resume in the Times, most of corporate America isn’t as lucky – and almost everyone in corporate America really wants to quit their job.
So what are you supposed to do if you can’t get any above-the-fold space in a major newspaper?
You have to burn bridges the old fashioned way – by writing a farewell email.
You can read the Jamie Dimon “Don’t gloat about how bad Goldman is. Did you hear me? Don’t gloat about how BAD GOLDMAN IS. The fact that GOLDMAN is BAD is of no interest to our clients. Or the press. Don’t leak this to the press!” memo two ways. One is, y’know, what it sounds like: Dimon gets to score some easy/meta points by spreading it around that his business practices are so superior that he doesn’t even need to spread it around that his business practices are superior. The other is that making money off of clients isn’t something invented at Goldman Sachs and anyone at JPMorgan who throws stones is likely to be clonked on the forehead by a ricochet. (Or possibly by a deranged fictional whistleblower!*)