March 16th, 2012
07:16 AM GMT
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(CNN) – This is an ode to Greg Smith.

A middling executive at Wall Street’s most powerful firm turned the global business press on its ear by leaving Goldman Sachs with a flourish, publishing an op-ed in the New York Times, calling the culture of the bank “toxic.”

After the piece hit, Goldman Sachs went into damage control and lost $2 billion in market share. But the power of Smith’s departure isn’t that someone from the inner echelon of a secretive institution accuses the firm of (shock!) greed.

The real genius of the Goldman Sachs kiss-off is that Smith mined a deep vein hidden in the psyche of every employed person: The “take this job and shove it” fantasy.

People have a vague sense of outrage toward Wall Street after the credit crisis and taxpayer-funded bailout, but frankly most don’t understand the banking industry, nor how financial instruments like derivatives trading brought the global economy to a screeching halt.

Yet everyone has harbored, at some point in their career, the fantasy to throw down their work, stand on their desk and make a dramatic departure from their job. Who hasn’t wanted a “Jerry Maguire” moment? (Even Darth Vader is getting into the act, explaining in a “Daily Mash” op-ed: “Why I am leaving the Empire.”)

There are others who blazed the way for Smith – like Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant.  Frustrated by a passenger, Slater took to the loudspeaker to announce his 2010 resignation. Then he grabbed a beer, deployed the evacuation chute, and slid away - out of a job and into posterity (and Larry King Live).

Or the Toronto Whole Foods employee who group mailed a scathing resignation letter to every employee in the company, likening the grocery chain to “a faux hippy Wal-Mart.” Even this week, an ex-Google employee fired off a scathing blast on a Microsoft blog about why he left Google, as CNNMoney reports.

Will Greg Smith’s allegations that the bank puts profits ahead of clients do permanent harm to Goldman Sach’s reputation? Or course not. The company’s share value, after taking a more than 3% hit Wednesday, was back up 2% the next day. Why?

“Goldman has put itself before its clients its entire existence,” William Cohan – author of “Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World" – told CNN. “Its clients understand that – I don’t think it’s any secret.

“But you’re dealing with, frankly, a cartel on Wall Street where there are very few options for clients nowadays,” Cohan said. “It’s gotten even worse since the credit crisis when you lost Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, and Merrill Lynch isn’t what it used to be.”

So Goldman Sachs will continue apace, because – well, there are few other choices. But guys like Greg Smith are one-in-a-million, the few brave (or dumb? or rich?) enough to make the dramatic departure fantasy a reality.

So all hail Mr. Smith – the “average Joe” of the 1%.  We smile and fist-pump in salute.

And then we go back to work.



soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Gonzo

    The current model of employee relations hasn't changed much since the 19th century. When the entire workforce is put under the yoke and coerced into pulling in one direction, little time and attention can be spared to contemplate whether not it is the right direction, let alone do anything about it. It's bad for employees, it's bad for society, and the only ones who benefit are the shareholders. Furthermore, we will soon live in a post-scarcity based economy, once we have fusion energy /thorium salt fission (look it up, promising)/alternative/renewable energy tackled; in other words, once energy stops being a finite commodity. As caste-based societies are primitive and we need to evolve in order to survive, a new paradigm must emerge that puts employees at the same level in terms of freedoms and privileges as shareholders, management and ownership, which would include the decline of money and power as motivation for making a contribution to society.

    March 16, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  2. Chantal

    Dear Gonzo,
    Your comments are so true, however depressing. I'm living through this right now in a large industry driven by profit who have no consideration for their employees.

    March 16, 2012 at 10:12 am |
  3. matt

    cool stuff gonzo! sounds like star trek :)

    March 16, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  4. Guest

    "most don’t understand the banking industry, nor how financial instruments like derivatives trading brought the global economy to a screeching halt."

    You're talking about most of the people in the financial press, right?

    March 16, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  5. gahh

    I was a disgruntled employee. I was treated like trash, because I was white. That's why I love seeing this sorry organization beg Congress for money, which I hope they don't get. I want to see them go so far under, the run into Satan himself.

    March 16, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
  6. Bill Simpson

    Read the series of articles on Goldman by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, if you want the REAL story about that bunch. They couldn't sue him because they dare not go to legal discovery for a lawsuit, even though he called some X-rated names all over the Internet.

    March 17, 2012 at 4:36 am |
  7. /sigh

    The problem is not as much that everyone knows that a corporation is 100% about profit and nothing more, but that we as a society simply accept it as if that is how it is supposed to be.

    March 18, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  8. peterr54

    Greg Smith may have ulterior motives to his whistle-blowing . As an executive director he had access to sensitive information, although it is unlikely his climb up the corporate ranks with a name as he has would go much further. As a banker he is naturally greedy and he would aim for a larger share of the spoils which he probably was not in line for.

    This type of "disgruntlement" is endemic in business, where you are either one of the in-crowd by association, or you are hand picked and "groomed" to act as their "inside agent". If he does have emails from several high ranking officers portraying clients as "muppets" then he may yet be able to succeed where Julian Assange failed.

    We all know who at Goldman Sachs rule the roost and that they are in close association with the Federal Reserve Bank of Jerusalem........sorry, New York. Most Americans do not know (or collectively don't want to hear) that Goldman Sachs was one of the chief financiers of the enemy before, during and after WWII. Furthermore, such bankers then proclaim immunity for such treacherous acts as they truly believe they have "biblical legacy" to keep the money distribution "neutral".

    Look what they (under cover of the FED did to JFK when he passed Executive Order No. 11110 to demand they stopped their treacherous charging of interest on loans made to the US Federal Government, while it was the Federal Government who gave the Federal Reserve the right to print legal US tender.

    I just hope that one day we will not hear in the press of Greg Smith's sudden demise.

    March 18, 2012 at 10:31 am |
  9. Faye Decrosta

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    May 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm |

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