The retirement letter from Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith, which was published as an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Tuesday, has been the talk of the town and likely reason the company lost market value on Wednesday.
Until the letter was published, Greg Smith was a fairly unknown mid-level executive at Goldman Sachs in London. The 33-year-old advised two of the largest hedge-funds in the world, 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, according to his testimonial.
Smith was also involved with the grueling recruitment process at the firm, not only acting as the face of the company in the recruitment video, but giving hope to candidates in his role as a mentor in the rigorous interview process. But Smith felt like a cheat-- luring people into a world he grew to despise.
"The firm has 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," Smith wrote in his letter. "I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief."
It's no surprise that Smith's righteous public resignation went viral. He took us into a board meeting, where Goldman Sach's executives referred to their client's as "Muppets," reminding us of the problems that lead to the 2008 crisis.
Smith explicitly highlighted how the company has little regard for their clients, saying how meetings were spent talking about how to make money out of the clients instead of talking about how to help them. T2 Partners LLC, who have been working with Sachs for over seven years have refuted Smith's comments.
"Our direct experience as a client of Goldman has been universally positive. The many people we have dealt with there have all been exceptionally talented and high-grade, and never once have we had a negative experience in which we felt that they took advantage of us or didn't do what they said they would do," they said in an email.
The client explained that all Wall Street Firms look out for their own bottom lines, as well as their clients. "We are certainly aware that the old, gentlemanly culture in which integrity and a customer-first attitude generally prevailed is long gone - not just at Goldman, but across all of Wall Street - and, in fact, across the entire financial industry," but the firm has reserved that discussion for another day.
They stand by their belief that Goldman Sachs is not as corrupt as Smith makes it out to be. From its 30, 000 employees, Goldman Sachs has made significant cuts to bonuses as well as carrying out extensive layoffs and therefore it is no surprise that some employees are disgruntled, according to T2 Partners LLC.
A former partner at Goldman Sachs, who generally agrees that the firm's culture is not what it once was, sent an email to Whitney Tilson, the Founder and Managing Partner at T2 Partners LLC. It reads:
"There are a couple of things out of place. 1) This guy has been at firm for 12 years and is only a VP...a piss ant of sorts. He should have been an MD-light by now, so clearly he has been running in place for some time. 2) He was in U.S. equity derivatives in London...sort of like equities in Dallas...more confirmation he is a lightweight. Somewhere along the line he has had sand kicked in his face...and is not as good as he thinks he is. That happens to a lot of high achievers there."
T2 Partners LLC believes Goldman Sachs does the right things for its clients most of the time, but agrees that perhaps not as much as it did in the old days. "Our investment thesis on Goldman is simple: when all the dust settles, it will remain the premier investment banking franchise in the world - and, if so, will be worth a substantial premium to tangible book value. Smith's column is a warning flag that we'll be monitoring closely, but we believe our investment thesis remains intact and the stock is still cheap, so we're not selling."
Goldman Sachs shares fell by 3.4 percent in New York on Wednesday, taking $2.12 billion off its market value. The drop came after Greg Smith's op-ed sparked debate on Wall Street. This is the third-biggest decline in the 81-company Standard & Poor's 500 Financials Index, according to Bloomberg.