Goldman Sachs executive director Greg Smith resigns today, and he's not going quietly. In a scorching New York Times op-ed, Smith says that after almost 12 years at Goldman, "the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it." Goldman's culture once revolved around integrity and doing right by its clients. Not anymore. "Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence," Smith writes.
To get ahead at Lloyd Blankfein's Goldman Sachs, you need to grind one of the firm's "axes," meaning sucker clients into buying junk Goldman doesn't want, or "Hunt elephants," meaning convince clients to make trades benefiting Goldman. "It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off," Smith says. "Over the last 12 months I have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as 'muppets.'" The firm has lost sight of a basic truth: "If clients don’t trust you, they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are." Goldman has since responded, saying via spokesperson that, "We disagree with the views expressed, which we don’t think reflect the way we run our business. In our view, we will only be successful if our clients are successful." An insider further downplays Smith's position, telling the Wall Street Journal that he's merely a vice president—a junior position held by thousands at the company. In related news, Darth Vader has quit the Empire. (Click for Slate's take on what Smith got wrong about Goldman Sachs.)