Maccabiah Games

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.  Read more »

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. Read more »

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 explained that his decision to leave the firm after 12 years of service did not come easily. But, after months of beating down a nagging little voice, a moment of truth presented itself that he could not deny. During rehearsals for the college recruiting video he starred, Greg realized 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 table tennis at the Maccabiah Games, and being named captain of the South African national table tennis team. OR WAS HE? Read more »