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16 October 2012

Stools, salad and mild humiliation: the Goldman Greg Smith loved

Smith's first chapter on Goldman Sachs.

By Martha Gill

You may remember Greg Smith, the former Goldman Sachs employee who skewered the Vampire Squid in a New York Times op-ed piece earlier this year. Well he’s back now, layering on the post-hoc criticism in a book, the first chapter of which was yesterday leaked online.

The chapter is an account of his first encounter in the company as an intern, and  catalogues experiences with stools (interns had to fight over seats, which they then had to carry around all day), 5am “punishment” starts, teary public humiliation, and salad (one intern got someone the wrong lunch, and it was binned in front of him).

This is all slightly unpleasant but not remarkably so: worse things happen at sea and reviewers from both Posts (Washington and Huffington) have said as much. But re-read Smith’s original letter, and you realise that the first chapter is actually supposed to record Goldman’s golden era, the bank Smith originally signed up for, and which:

“revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years.”

He mourned that, by the time he left,

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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.

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

It sounds like the students probably knew already.