Greg Smith woke up one morning this month, covered from head to toe in icky, slimy Vampire-Squid ink. After 12 years at Goldman Sachs, most recently as executive director and head of U.S. equity derivates in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, he decided he could no longer tolerate the moral turpitude at a place of work that had netted him—oh, at a conservative estimate—some $10 million over a decade. Cleansing himself was the only way to stay pure. So cleanse himself he did, with a cathartic op-ed in The New York Times, in which he announced (before telling his employers) that he was quitting Goldman Sachs—in effect, trading in his impressively lucrative job for 15 minutes of fame.
Smith’s cri de Coeur is being regarded as something noble—and not merely because of the unusual spectacle of someone walking away from millions. But to this reader, Smith’s jeremiad comes across as cynical and insincere, and Smith himself comes across as little better than a sanctimonious git. He describes the ugly Goldman he now feels compelled to leave as a place that has lost its “spirit of humility,” a place that, once upon a time, “wasn’t just about making money.” Yet Smith worked there for 12 years, in the belly of the beast. Did it take him 12 years to realize that Goldman isn’t a non-profit? You’ve got to love his prelapsarian tone, his contention that this edifice of integrity, so humanitarian when he started 12 years ago, has suddenly turned diabolical, caring only about m—y.