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Ducks in a Row: Greg Smith and Goldman Sachs

by Miki Saxon

5181314180_ac643f50ec_mIf you are in touch with any media, traditional, new or social, you are probably aware that Greg Smith resigned last Wednesday from Goldman Sachs; resigned very publicly in the form of an op-ed piece in the NY Times.

The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.

Smith was executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but for years he was deeply involved with Goldman’s recruiting efforts.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

Because of the recruiting video he wasn’t quite the anonymous 33-year-old midlevel executive described, but now his comments and opinions are on everybody’s mind.

(You can read Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn’s response to the resignation here.)

Backing up one’s ethical beliefs means putting your money where your mouth is, which may be a difficult concept for many players and commentators in the financial world to understand.

Mr. Smith is making a considerable financial sacrifice in publicly criticizing Goldman. Most Wall Street employees sign nondisparagement and nondisclosure agreements before they join a firm. If Mr. Smith did, Goldman may take legal action and refuse to release stock options he has accumulated. Mr. Smith may also find it difficult to find work on Wall Street after such a public resignation.

But if I were an employer I would work particularly hard to bring Smith into my organization.

After all, how often do you have the opportunity to hire a moral compass that has already been tested and proven accurate?

Flickr image credit: Brett Jordan

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