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
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
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?
Greg Smith is a Goldman Sachs “executive director” and “head of equity derivatives” in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. And, as you may have heard, today is his last day at the firm. Greg had a speech prepared for the big announcement, which he stayed up all night writing and planned to deliver on […]