Clearly, Greg Smith is the very product of the environment he is so quick to criticize.
Under the guise of a now viral op-ed piece in the New York Times, Smith -- once a Goldman Sachs executive -- has successfully guaranteed that every employer, every corporation, every Jack, and Jill around the world, including the Hill, will be aware of his accomplishments.
Capitalizing on the rampant public disdain for the investment bank, he has written what some would call an op-ed -- but I would call a self-aggrandizing CV, or even, in parts, a high school senior's college application -- about why he is leaving the investment bank.
Once you get past the novelty of one of the suits criticizing the suits, it is clear that this opinion piece is nothing but a vain, desperate grab for attention in light of current events. It reeks of that scene in "Mad Men" when Don Draper takes out an ad page in the New York TImes and writes an open letter entitled, "Why I'm Quitting Tobacco." Clearly, this is where Smith draws his inspiration from, but it remains to be seen if similar business opportunities emerge as they did in the HBO series.
Nothing Smith says is new. His criticism is based on the vagueness of profits before people, of a "toxic and dangerous" environment. But of course, he sprinkles bits of information that make the reader think he's getting a Bonfire of the Vanities-esque inside look into the world of investment banking.
"Muppets," "Elephants," "getting paid," and the firm's "Three Ways for Guaranteed Success" which are effectively getting rid of surplus, selling the client something he doesn't need, and finding a way to sell over the counter derivatives.
These are the bits of "insider" information the reader is privy to; but in fact there is nothing "inside" about it. The three rules are those of any company. And calling clients "muppets," is insulting, but one would be naive to think worse things aren't said by waiters in the kitchen about customers. But of course, this is Goldman Sachs so different rules apply.
But these things are necessary for Smith to write about because otherwise the true purpose of this article would be far too obvious. Between the judgment of the firm's moral character and the disillusionment Smith has "suffered," the junior executive still manages to intersperse the piece with all the information a prospective employer would be looking for.
Graduated from Stanford University on a scholarship, became an intern at Goldman Sachs straight out of school (no small feat), rose through the ranks, and eventually became head of the firm's derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Greg Smith's story is but one of success.
Then he pushes it, saying, "I was one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000) to appear on [the company's] recruiting video, which is played on every college campus [they] visit." Move over one percent, here's Mr. 0.0003 per cent.
And his portfolio at Goldman Sachs? Smith had the "privilege" (read: point of pride) of "advising 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." In case you don't know what that means, Jack and Jill, Smith will put it in layman's terms: His clients' asset base was worth "more than a trillion dollars."
But on the off chance you still haven't been convinced, however, let Smith tell you about some of his extracurriculars: He was a Rhodes Scholar national finalist; he even thinks to add his third place standing at the Maccabiah Games in ping-pong (which he professionally euphemises as: "table tennis"). Smith is also quick to hype the games: they are known as "the Jewish Olympics." Be that as it may, the clarification reeks of something one would expect in the college application -- or when trying to impress a girl at a party.
The final falseness, however, lies in his his attempt at portraying his "humble beginnings:" "When I was a first-year analyst I didn't know where the bathroom was." Yes, you can imagine young Smith as the nervous novice; afraid even to eat lunch at his desk, lest he should be reprimanded for not working.
If there's one thing that this article will do -- beyond fuelling the fire to bring down every Sherman McCoy on Wall Street - is that it should reveal Smith's true colors: he is not a man of the people, nor a man of high moral character, but a man who will (cunningly) do anything to get himself ahead, even at the cost of betraying all 30,000 Goldman employees and likening them to the rotten few.
"I didn't know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces." Poor Greg Smith. If he had known the latter, maybe he would have gotten the gold medal in ping-pong after all.