ping pong

Justin Bieber definitely makes a bunch in the bank, but he doesn’t seem to know so much about banking. When the teenybopper star and his crew hit Susan Sarandon’s ping-pong club SPiN Wednesday, they were directed to a private room away from the masses, but told they’d have to give up the space at 6:30 p.m. for a private party. When the time came, a spy says, a SPiN staffer popped into Bieber’s VIP room to tell him it was time to go. The singer’s posse didn’t want to leave and started to kick up a fuss, but they were told, “We’re really sorry, the room is booked . . . J.P. Morgan is having a private party.” Our spy says Bieber then piped up and shot back, “Why does he get the room and not us?” [NYP via Tracy Alloway, related]

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 »

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: Read more »

  • 02 May 2012 at 12:57 PM

Warren Buffett Sends Another Athlete To The Olympics

As some of you may recall, back in 2007, Warren Buffett told Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that they were in for a big treat at the company’s annual meeting– the opportunity to play an 11 year-old girl, Ariel Hsing, in table tennis. Buffett met Hsing when she was 9 and after having his ass handed to him at the table, decided she’d make for great entertainment in Omaha. At the time, Hsing was ranked number one among girls under 16 in the US and now, thanks to what we choose to believe was some Bela Karolyi-esque grooming on Buffett’s part, she’s hit it big. Read more »

  • 26 Mar 2012 at 1:56 PM

Let’s Help Greg Smith Name His Book

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 says may go for more than $1 million at auction. 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 »

People who have spoken to Mr. Smith said that he was flying back to New York on Wednesday night to see his family and friends. These people say Mr. Smith still has no concrete plan for what to do next. He tells friends that he wants to effect change in Goldman’s business practices, although it is unclear what that change would be. [Dealbook]

I just.

Gillian Tett has a book called “Fool’s Gold: The Inside Story of J.P. Morgan and How Wall St. Greed Corrupted Its Bold Dream and Created a Financial Catastrophe.” It’s a pretty good book about the creation and rise to prominence of synthetic CDOs, and I’m sure the subtitle isn’t her fault, but it’s always bothered me, because how exactly was the “bold dream” of creating synthetic CDOs “corrupted” into … like … selling more synthetic CDOs? If you think synthetic CDOs are a Bad Thing, they were a Bad Thing at their creation. This is not an orphanage that was taken over by bandits and turned into a source of black-market organs. It was a financial derivative that was sold to people looking to buy financial derivatives.

Similarly, Greg Smith spent twelve years flogging equity derivatives to “two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia” and is just now discovering that they’re designed to make money for his employer? I imagine his contacts at these hedge funds reading his op-ed today and being like “holy shit, Goldman was trying to make money off of us?” Wait no I don’t. I’m pretty sure they wanted to make money too.* Read more »