Thursday, March 15, 2012

New York Bankers, Banks & Trusts: Goldman Sachs


1898 tax period stamps cancelled by the firm Goldman, Sachs. 

Yes, these stamps and this firm have featured on this site before, but this week the firm is headline news, at least here in London where I am at present.  This afternoon's headline from the London Evening Standard reads:  GOLDMAN BOSS:  WE CALL OUR CLIENTS MUPPETS. 

To quote a few lines from the article:

Greg Smith, former Goldman head of US equity derivatives in Europe, said he had quit Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs because of its "moral fibre".  He described how bankers at Goldman Sachs referred to their clients, who include the British and Greek governments, as "muppets".  He said the bank had "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." 

While the article contains a response from Goldman Sachs refuting the claims of former employee Greg Smith, UK politicians and news editors have taken note of Smith's reasons for quitting.  From the paper's editorial page:  "The environment, Mr. Smith says, is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it...the interests of the client continue to be sidelined.  At meetings, not a single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients.  It's...about how we can make the most money off of them."

More than 100 years after the firm Goldman Sachs was founded, its decisions and actions can affect clients, nations, and the world.  Ever since the Great Depression and the recent economic downturn, it has been clear that a little bit of adult supervision is necessary for firms like Goldman.   While we shouldn't destroy the energy and creative value added that talented and sophisticated capital managers like Goldman bring to  economies, we also can't let them take advantage of clients. 

Let's see if Mr. Smith's story lasts for more than a day or two.  I'm not giving it much time.

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