Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mr. Smith Goes to the New York Times


There's something craven and anti-climactic about former alumnus Greg Smith's op-ed in the NY Times about Goldman Sachs' culture of corruption.

It's craven because Smith waited until just before his resignation before writing a mass resignation email sent to Goldman Sachs executives early in the morning 15 minutes before the NY Times published a mini tell-all op-ed he never mentioned.

It's anti-climactic because Smith only confirmed what the American public and our elected officials only knew but couldn't quite prove: That they detest their investors (calling them "Muppets", which, in Great Britain, is a colloquialism for an idiot), the 99% and put manufacturing money out of thin air over the best interests of their investors and shareholders.

Smith's tale barely has credibility because he was still technically employed at Goldman Sachs at the time he'd written the article and was on his last day when it had appeared early yesterday morning.

Typically, CNBC and Fox have sent out their talking heads as furiously whirling dervishes of corporate outrage that an insider would merely confirm what everyone on the planet from Matt Taibbi on down already knew. They've already started painting Mr. Smith as the stereotypical "disgruntled ex-employee" while failing to note two crucial distinctions between this volley and anything else that would be said or written by someone recently fired by McDonald's:

#1, while a mid level manager and hedge fund consultant, Mr. Smith's clients, by his own admission, had investment portfolios worth a combined total of about one trillion dollars. Since he was an executive, we can be pretty sure he wasn't working for union scale or minimum wage and that he was pretty successful at what he did (In fact, he made about $500,000 last year). #2, Mr. Smith also left on his own terms.

Still, while his all-but-proven claims have some credibility, it certainly would've meant more if this had come from Hank Paulson or Blankfein or Cohn. Yet, what Smith claims is readily supported by allegations from both investors and the United States Congress and circumstantial evidence. It was the next best thing to Wikileaks.

Still, it needs to be pointed out that Greg Smith helped make Goldman Sachs the "great vampire squid" it became (as indelibly coined by Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi) and that when he made a bundle and when his conscience wouldn't leave him alone (if conscience actually was involved), he decided to, well, bail out.

Smith is part of a vast problem and offers no solutions aside from telling something we already knew: That Goldman Sachs is bleeding this nation dry from its investors and shareholders all the way down to the average working stiff who lost their job and/or home because of Goldman's high stakes shell games.

So, thank you, Mr. Smith, for some rare and refreshing honesty but you gambled and lost nothing with your op-ed save for a job reference in your little tell-all tale of corporate greed that a legitimately disgruntled American public already knew.

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