Goldman's Muppet Search Laudable

 | Mar 22, 2012 | 1:22 PM EDT
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Now this is the Goldman Sachs (GS) I know and respect. This is the Goldman Sachs that I went to work for. This is the Goldman Sachs I would hire as my banker.

I am talking about the tough decision Goldman has made to find out who is calling their customers Muppets, the charge leveled by departing exec Greg Smith when he delivered his bombshell of a resignation letter to the New York Times op-ed page. Goldman will review e-mail records to see who committed this violation of everything the firm has proclaimed to believe and will take appropriate action against those who trashed the firm's bill payers, the clients themselves.

Before I get into why I think this is the correct approach by a firm that says it is beyond reproach, let me just say that I thought Smith's op-ed was a cheap shot. I would not exit a place that I have been a well-paid integral part of for a dozen years and whistle blow unless I had discovered illegal, not contemptible but illegal, behavior, reported it to the appropriate authorities and then watched the matter deep-sixed by the executives who are required to look into it by law.

That might be your style, it is not mine. Many suggested to me that Smith was no more than a disgruntled underachieving worker looking for a screenplay contract, although I certainly think there was more merit to his column than that damning judgment and I can think of better ways to go Hollywood. 

But once the assault is written and published in the New York Times you can't act as if was one giant crock, which was Goldman's arrogant first response. I was sickened by the venerable firm's blast-the messenger reaction as were many other former Goldman people whom I speak to.

My alumni friends wanted to know who viewed clients as puppets and knaves and wanted them purged immediately. The charges couldn't be cavalierly dismissed simply because the former employee might not have been a heavyweight partner. The scoundrels needed to be shown the door immediately. Such a clean breast of things has never been more necessary because there have been whole books and whole congressional hearings about how Goldman Sachs shot against clients and abused them in the name of short-term greed.

I have felt over the years that Goldman believed it was above all others because it made money when others lost it and because, if they were so greedy and so contemptuous of clients, the clients would have long since departed and the business would have gone away. That has clearly not happened, so therefore everything must be hunky dory.

Now we know that Goldman Sachs, while despising the whistle blower is at least going to investigate to see if there are people who do not fit the credo or the founding principles of the firm. I do hope that it is a chips-may-fall investigation and those who trashed the firm's clients should be exposed and fired immediately.

So, even as the initial reaction was poor form, it's never too late to do the right thing. Self-remonstration is a positive not a negative. Let's hope that those who resent their bill payers as they take advantage of them no longer get to cloak themselves in Goldman clothing.

I say here's your hat, what's your hurry and don't let the door hit you on your way out to the street.


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