US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Things not so golden at Goldman Sachs

Liz Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

In a provocative op ed in the New York Times today we learn why Greg Smith, a former executive director, is leaving Goldman Sachs. Says Smith: “I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.”

Smith goes on to detail how when he started working at Goldman Sachs over a decade ago, he saw a company that valued culture – specifically, how much it cared for client needs. He cited pride, teamwork, and humility commonly found in the workplace. Smith watched these values erode as the focus of the company became based solely on profit. Smith writes, “Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.” He describes sales meetings he attended where clients were never mentioned, and he talks about the firm’s growing dishonesty with clients over product values.

A separate article in the NYT explores just how bad this exposé could be for Wall Street in the wake of the financial meltdown, noting that anger toward big business abounds, from Occupy Wall Street protestors to growing distrust from wealthy customers.

This sentiment echoes another point that Smith emphasizes in his piece: that no matter what the business, clients will stop giving you business if they don’t trust you.  “Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist,” Smith says. “People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.”

Is there a way to balance people and profits on Wall Street? What would happen if more people on Wall Street and went the way of Greg Smith, acting upon their consciences? Will people stop putting their money into seemingly “untrustworthy” companies?

Though Smith is sure to face criticism and scrutiny for his public resignation, his words are a great reminder for us to examine the decisions we make with our money, and that maximizing profits does not maximize satisfaction.