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Goldman Sachs Quitting Column Goes Viral With Pop-Culture Touchstones, Parodies

Already sitting atop the New York Times most e-mailed list is today’s Greg Smith op-ed, “Why I’m Leaving Goldman Sachs.” In the column, the Goldman executive director and head of U.S. equity derivatives for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa calls the firm’s environment “as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it” and questions its “moral fiber.” Goldman watchers have so far taken the column either as confirmation of the post-crash characterization of the firm as an evil vampire squid, or questioned his judgment ( He just figured this out now?! ), motives (Countdown to his book deal and/or hedge fund), and timing (What a coincidence that he waited until bonus season was over).

But mere hours after the resignation letter was published, memes, parodies and pop culture references abound. 

Smith’s open letter is already  part of a grand tradition in finance. It’s becoming a trope in tech, too: “I’m Leaving TechCrunch. Here’s Why.” was posted publicly last fall, while just yesterday, “Why I left Google” made the rounds.

The “Why I Left…” club has entries for Freemasonry, Atheism, Microsoft, and, uh, the Catholic Church. Quitting with a bang is immortalized in movies like Network, Jerry Maguire, Half Baked, and so on.

Then there’s Mad Men’s Don Draper, who wrote in his own newspaper op-ed, “Why I’m Quitting Tobacco.” That media stunt, as Forbes noted, mirrors Smith’s in its structure and theatricality: 

Here’s Smith, explaining how he got to this point.

After 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 atmosphere here now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.”

Here’s how Draper launches his screed:

“For over 25 years, we devoted ourselves to peddling a product for which good work is irrelevant, because people can’t stop themselves from buying it. A product that never improves, causes illness, and makes people unhappy. But there was money in it. A lot of money. In fact, our entire business depended on it.”

The Goldman parodies, meanwhile, started strong right out of the gate with, “Why I am leaving the Empire, by Darth Vader.” Interspersing some lines and phrases from Smith, Vader writes, “The Empire is one of the galaxy’s largest and most important oppressive regimes and it is too integral to galactic murder to continue to act this way.” Buzzfeed’s “Why I Am Leaving Restore Our Future” subs in a Romney SuperPAC for the investment bank.

But comedian Andy Borowitz really took it up a notch with “A Response from Goldman Sachs“:

As to those of you who were serviced by Mr. Smith, it’s understandable that you would be concerned about who will be taking his place going forward. On that front, I have some exciting news: today, Goldman is pleased to announce that our new executive director and head of the United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa will be Mr. Joseph Kony. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Kony’s resume, let me assure you that he has the character and moral standards you have come to expect from Goldman, and like the rest of us here at the bank, he has dedicated his life to doing the Lord’s work.

Yep, that’s a relevant meme mash-up.

Goldman Sachs Quitting Column Goes Viral