A year ago today, a Goldman Sachs vice-president named Greg Smith lit the media world on fire when he resigned from the firm in the most public way possible: an explosive New York Times op-ed, in which he claimed that the Goldman culture was "as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it," and that the firm's employees referred to their clients as "muppets."
A book deal and media frenzy followed, during which Goldman's PR squadron, led by former Treasury spokesman Jake Siewert, shifted into scorched-earth mode in an attempt to discredit Smith and shift the attention away from his allegations. Smith's performance reviews were leaked. Talking points were distributed to all Goldman employees and alumni. Reporters were given off-the-record briefings designed to make Smith look like a disgruntled twerp who quit because he was unhappy with his bonus.
But all that is over now, right? After all, it's been a year. Surely Wall Street's most powerful investment bank has gotten over its embarrassment and moved on to bigger fish.
Or maybe not. Today's Morning Money (a daily financial newsletter put out by Politico's Ben White) carried an anniversary gift from a "little birdy," which we have reason to suspect is Goldman's Siewert himself.
A little birdy emails on the anniversary of Greg Smith’s “Why I Left Goldman Sachs” NYT op-ed: “Anyone know what ever happened to this guy? One year ago, he was the toast of 620 Eighth Avenue [NYT HQ]. Today, his book is ranked No. 19,990 on Amazon, and he’s not even the first hit on Google when you type in his name, having been out-algorithmed by a Midwestern automotive equipment manufacturer..."
If it surprises you that Goldman's PR honcho would use the cloak of anonymity to smear a former mid-level employee in an industry newsletter, rest assured: Wall Street banks do this kind of stuff all the time.
Still, the little birdy has a point. It is kind of embarrassing that Smith hasn't gotten better Internet results out of his public resignation and subsequent book. (He should have aimed higher, like having a fourteen-item "Controversies" section in his Wikipedia page.)
At least Smith — who didn't return a request for comment this morning — can take solace in one fact: However poorly his book sold, he obviously bothered his former employer enough to create a yearlong obsession with tearing him down. In a world where not much gets to Goldman Sachs, that might be victory enough.