Doing God’s Work After Goldman

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Photo: Photo-illustration: Mary-Louise Price; Photo: iStockphoto, Mario Tama/Getty Images

On the twelfth anniversary of Goldman Sachs' initial public offering, the Times has a where-are-they-now roundup of the 221 original members of the bank's clubby, ultrasecretive partnership.

Most of Goldman's IPO class of 1999 followed predictable paths: Thirty-nine are still at Goldman, 100 are working elsewhere in finance, and 26 have retired and now presumably spend their days swimming, Scrooge McDuck–style, in their money pits. But one ex-partner caught our eye: Gregory H. Zehner, who became a pastor to atone for his sins in finance.

Zehner, who used to work on the emerging markets trading desk, hasn’t left much of a paper trail, in true Goldman style. But we did find a recording of a sermon he gave last year to a Christian men’s group, titled “Taking the Bible to the Trading Floor.” He speaks of his years at Goldman as a time he was turned into an occasionally godless, vulgar bond-slinger.

“I was a kid who never cursed growing up. But after a few years on the trading floor, I think I could match most of them," he said. "I prayed all the time. I prayed about when to put trades on, when to put trades off.”

Regrettably, doing business the Goldman way also meant breaking some Commandments:

“There’s a lot of pressure to lie. Not about what a bond is yielding or anything like that, but lie about your position. Oh yeah, you’re taking me out of my last ten of that! You’re cleaning me out! When you’ve got another 100 million behind you.”

But the biggest test of his faith, Zehner said, came when he and his wife (also a Goldman partner) decided to split child-care duty, requiring him to be home early two nights a week. This didn’t sit well with the other partners, who accused him of being a lightweight for skipping out at 6:30 p.m. So Zehner pulled out the big guns:

“I prayed for my bosses, the ones who were torturing me, I prayed for them … that they would find faith in Christ.”

After reading the "Book of Job" for two years, Zehner decided praying wasn’t enough. He left the firm, enrolled at Yale Divinity School, and got ordained. The Times reports he now lives in Utah and is working on a book about Christianity.

We're pretty sure that God can grant an exception to that camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle thing for the occasional Goldman partner, especially since Zehner seems to have really nailed the pastor thing. He quotes lyrics by the Christian rock band Switchfoot and spouts religious banker proverbs like, “When you invest in God’s kingdom, you never lose,” and “The only master of the universe is God.”

Plus, he’s already hatched a plan to deal with the next financial crisis!

“The way we’re going to prevent this crisis from happening again … is through spiritual revival.”

Godspeed on that one, friend.