Loyalty without truth
is a trail to tyranny.
|Wednesday, 14 March 2012 at 18h 42m 34s|
ex-Goldman Sachs employee tells all
As I've said many times, the financial sector is short-sighted, short-term, and willing to screw
over their own clients.
Lo and behold, Greg Smith writes a letter to the NY York Times.
TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern
while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here
long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can
honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in
the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest
and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this
way. 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.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman
Sachs’s success. It 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. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not
sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. 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.
But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through
our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than
30,000) to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around
the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80
college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied.
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.
When the history books are written about Goldman Sachs, they may reflect that the current chief
executive officer, Lloyd C. Blankfein, and the president, Gary D. Cohn, lost hold of the firm’s
culture on their watch. I truly believe that this decline in the firm’s moral fiber represents the
single most serious threat to its long-run survival.
Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on
the planet, 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. My clients have a total asset base of more than
a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe
is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly
unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.
How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. Leadership used to be
about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. 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.
What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,” which is
Goldman-speak for persuading your clients to invest in the stocks or other products that we are
trying to get rid of because they are not seen as having a lot of potential profit. b) “Hunt
Elephants.” In English: get your clients — some of whom are sophisticated, and some of whom aren’t —
to trade whatever will bring the biggest profit to Goldman. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like
selling my clients a product that is wrong for them. c) Find yourself sitting in a seat where your
job is to trade any illiquid, opaque product with a three-letter acronym.
Today, many of these leaders display a Goldman Sachs culture quotient of exactly zero percent. I
attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we
can help clients. It’s purely about how we can make the most possible money off of them. If you were
an alien from Mars and sat in on one of these meetings, you would believe that a client’s success or
progress was not part of the thought process at all.
It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off. Over the last 12 months I
have seen five different managing directors refer to their own clients as “muppets,” sometimes over
internal e-mail. Even after the S.E.C., Fabulous Fab, Abacus, God’s work, Carl Levin, Vampire
Squids? No humility? I mean, come on. Integrity? It is eroding. I don’t know of any illegal
behavior, but will people push the envelope and pitch lucrative and complicated products to clients
even if they are not the simplest investments or the ones most directly aligned with the client’s
goals? Absolutely. Every day, in fact.
It astounds me how little senior management gets 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.
These days, the most common question I get from junior analysts about derivatives is, “How much
money did we make off the client?” It bothers me every time I hear it, because it is a clear
reflection of what they are observing from their leaders about the way they should behave. Now
project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the
junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs
out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.
When I was a first-year analyst I didn’t know where the bathroom was, or how to tie my shoelaces. I
was taught to be concerned with learning the ropes, finding out what a derivative was, understanding
finance, getting to know our clients and what motivated them, learning how they defined success and
what we could do to help them get there.
My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford
University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table
tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics — have all come through hard
work, with no shortcuts. Goldman Sachs today has become too much about shortcuts and not enough
about achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.
I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your
business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the
morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right
again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money
will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.
Greg Smith is resigning today as a Goldman Sachs executive director and head of the firm’s United
States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
[SOURCE: Greg Smith | NY Times |14 March
|Sunday, 1 January 2012 at 7h 49m 41s|
The US World Bases
The United States has 700 to 1000 bases around the entire world, on every continent, in every corner
of the world.Click the image for very large graphic
|Friday, 16 December 2011 at 15h 41m 7s|
Interest rates since 1831
hat-tip to barry ritholtz at ritholtz.com.
The chart is from Jim Bianco.
|Thursday, 15 December 2011 at 18h 29m 33s|
Reminder: the rich don't create jobs, the economic environment does
Click here for
another in a growing list of reasons about why the notion that "the rich and the entrepreneurs"
are job creators is bunk.
Okay, I'll supplement this topic.
The general availability of purchasing power makes anything beyond the subsistence needs of a
society even possible. Once people are clothed, sheltered, and fed, the surplus income purchases
the products and services of what it is that entrepreneurs provide. A middle class is necessary for
a vibrant capitalist society to functionally exist, or else it will devolve into plutocracy or
dictatorship. The last 4,000 years of human history provides many examples of societies with two
classes, or three, if you include the slaves amongst the rich and the poor.
When the middle class drifts towards impoverishment, or diminishing future returns (an economic term
used by the neo-conservatives) this will have an aggregate effect on the overall demand return
entrepreneurial potential engine. In any economic environment, there is always potential for
reward. Either by connivance or cunning, or sheer luck, there will always be those who can rise
above their original social status. However, these individual efforts do not affect the overall
of the members of the population. Hundreds of success stories do not dispel the reality that 90% of
the population earns less than $50,000 a year, and 98% earns less than $100,000.
Now consider what happens when demand evaporates underneath the malignant priorities of the profit
extraction system, and nothing changes in 4 years, 8 years, 10 years.
I'll leave it at that. Read the link above. Despite the misplaced sarcasm, there is some insight.
Blodget | businessinsider.com | 15 December 2011]
|Thursday, 15 December 2011 at 18h 0m 56s|
My rebuttal to a recent blog commentariati
I love the blithe attempt to massage Libertarianism as the new truth, now that the
Neo-conservative economic belief system has completely fallen apart. The idea that human beings can
exist as hermetically sealed economic units is ridiculous. But I've made that point many times
before, and any additional fodder I'll save for another day.
I thought it might be entertaining to share this "dialogue" (if that's what you call the comment
board of the internet).
Here is what the guy said
I’ve gotten interested in Austrian School economics. I’m reading the Ludwig Von Mises book entitled
Liberalism. He has a quite different account of what’s best for all — he claims free enterprise is
good because it allows for the maximum of exchange which allows a kind of Darwinian fittest to
emerge in terms of products and distribution. One of the problems I have with Marxism is that it
puts kindness first, when of course all of nature is about selfishness. Marxism is unnatural and
usually kills nature (though not usually with kindness). It’s interesting to hear about this author
(I generally like anarchists). There is an anarchistic side in libertarianism of the kind that Ron
Paul espouses (he is also an aficionado of Austrian School economics). I suppose if we’re going to
turn to economics as the set of paradigms that clarifies what else we’re doing in the humanities we
might as well look at all the different schools. I personally like Smith, but he wouldn’t have
accepted slavery as is here said to be the case. I’m certain that Hayek and Von Mises wouldn’t have
accepted slavery. Not so sure about Marxism systems. They seem to accept slavery and even to promote
it as they seek to deny democracy, and to impose the will of a minority on that of the majority. Do
you think that OWS is Marxist? I haven’t been able to determine what they want or what they are saying.
Here is my response :
@Darcy: Yea the elite and their wall street cronies certainly allocated the investment funds in an
efficient manner. Outsourcing all of the production potential of the nation to skim more money off
the top and pay workers less, forcing the middle class to take on more debt when government stops
funding education and starting spending more on war and military contractors. When bankers and
various members of the political elite can break the wall and walk away, where is the moral
rectitude of the economic system? Is this type of corrupt, mismanagement allowing the maximum
production based on the survival of the fittest?
No. It’s about people with power and money being greedy and doing whatever they want — and getting
away with it.
Your knowledge of the names in Economics means nothing. The substance of what they have written is
more important then quoting a few names. Especially given the many different names you don’t
include. I on the other hand, are well versed in the various historic literature — so when you say
that “Smith” is a school of thought, you reveal your ignorance.
Capitalism is amoral. Neither good nor bad. Economics and the hierarchical relations of the society
itself ARE THE SAME THING. All of the economists you stated agree. So please stop saying that an
economic system is “good”. The economic system does not create the social rungs by itself. That is
what community and government do. All of the economists you stated agree.
There are other choices than Marxism. So why are you so fixated with that ancient, defunct product
of an impoverished 19th century writer? What value is it to what the citizens are facing today?
People who are upset with the corruption of our government and our financial system are not
anti-capitalist at all. They do not read Marx for guidance.
This is easy to understand. However, someone like Darcy is a troll who probably works for a company
hired to spew these contrived opinions. They act like they are confused about why people are
protesting and make innuendos that they are socialists, communists, or marxists.
Get real. The OWS movement is an American movement, just like the Farmers movements of the 1880s and
the progressive movements in the early 1900s, the labor movements of the 1930s, and the civil rights
movements of the 1950s-60s.
~ ~ ~
UPDATE: Admittedly I added the labor movement of the 1930s, in the above quotation of my "original"
Ah, but there's the rub. Everything is evolutionary. Given half a chance, all of us will make some
change to what was once a misconception or oversight. Details take time. Nothing is
instantaneously achieved. Only time can percolate the best ideas and the best practices.
|Thursday, 15 December 2011 at 17h 43m 23s|
I don't know if anyone out there in the ether realizes this, but ...
The recent arrests of the occupy movement have focused on the legal and journalistic constituents of
the movement. 100% of those who are arrested are legal counsel, video streamers, known bloggers, or
avid twitters, despite their being less than 5% of protest population. The police are singling them
And as they are held for 2 or 3 days, some of them have $50,000 bails for a misdemeanor offense. Or
they are threatened to have their retina's scanned (which is what happened in New York City). Why
do they want to scan retinas? Makes you wonder if the drones used in the middle might actually be
used for some purpose in the United States?
Am I paranoid?
|Monday, 12 December 2011 at 19h 35m 50s|
The history of debt
Click here for the source blog
where this awesome summary of how Money is really government debt that is used as a medium of
exchange and facilitate the purchase of goods, payment of wages, and payment for services.
David Graeber’s Debt The First Five Thousand Years is a brilliant and powerful book; and even, I
would say, a crucial one. Graeber does several things. He shows how the notion of “debt” has been
integral to any notion of an “economy.” He traces the history of debt, both as an economic concept
and as a metaphor for other forms of social engagement, back to the Mesopotamian civilizations of
thousands of years ago. He traces the changes in how debt is conceived, and how economic exchange is
organized, in various Eurasian civilizations and societies since then. And he contrasts these
relations of economy and debt to those that existed (and still exist to some extent) in non-state
societies (the ones that anthropologists tend to study)
blog | | 19 November 2011]
|Monday, 5 December 2011 at 19h 14m 52s|
A timeline of the financial crisis
From February 2007 to April 2011
Click on the picture to go to an interactive timeline.
[SOURCE: St. Louis Fed
|Friday, 2 December 2011 at 21h 36m 11s|
The Rich Don't Create Jobs
Click here for the Wall Street Journal blog entry by Robert Frank.
“I’ve never been a ‘job creator,’ ” writes Nick Hanauer, who helped start several start-ups,
including aQuantive, which was sold to Microsoft for $6.4 billion. “I can start a business based on
a great idea and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I
have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate.”
It’s this “feedback loop” between mass consumers and businesses that creates jobs.
“When businesspeople take credit for creating jobs, it is like squirrels taking credit for creating
evolution,” he writes. “In fact, it’s the other way around.”
The spending of the rich can’t make up the difference for a gutted middle class. Hanauer said his
biggest expense is his jet, which doesn’t support many American jobs since it was made in France and
fueled with oil from the Middle East.
The answer, he says, is to tax the rich so their money can be used to improve the purchasing power
of the middle class.
[SOURCE: Robert Frank | Wall Street
Journal | 1 December 2011]
|Thursday, 1 December 2011 at 19h 8m 23s|
Another Super committee
GOTO THE NEXT 10 COLUMNS